Chilina Maxwell in "Beautiful" - Photo by Joan M. Marcus
Chilina Maxwell in “Beautiful” – Photo by Joan M. Marcus

As presented by 106.7 Lite FM, Broadway In Bryant Park is a beloved series that lets New Yorkers experience Broadway (and off-Broadway) hits outdoors for free. This year’s series kicked off on Jul. 7 with Wicked, Stomp, The Color Purple and Matilda being showcased in Bryant Park. The following Thursday featured Chicago, The Fantastiks, Motown and Finding Neverland. Two Thursdays remain for this year’s Broadway In Bryant Park schedule as Aug. 4 will spotlight Beautiful, An American In Paris, Avenue Q and the forthcoming Holiday Inn. The final showcase, taking place on Aug. 11, will include performers from Phantom Of The Opera, Something Rotten, Cagney and Ruthless.

In advance of her Aug 4. performance, Chilina Kennedy — star of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — spoke to Downtown. Chilina took over for the show’s original lead Jessie Mueller last year, portraying the play’s namesake Carole King to much acclaim. Previously, Chilina played Mary Magdalene in the 2012 Broadway run of Jesus Christ Superstar. She had also originated the role of Phoebe in A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder, and outside of the theater world, Chilina has worked with Burt Bacharach. She is a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory and is a founding member of Toronto’s Theatre 20.

For more info on Broadway In Bryant Park, check out the Bryant Park and 106.7 Lite FM websites. Chilina herself can be followed on Twitter as @ChilinaKennedy, while she keeps a proper website at www.chilinakennedy.ca. Her show, Beautiful, is online at www.beautifulonbroadway.com.

Scott J. Campbell & Chilina Kennedy - Photo by Zachary Maxwell Sterz
Scott J. Campbell & Chilina Kennedy – Photo by Zachary Maxwell Sterz

What’s to be expected from your performance in Bryant Park?

Chilina Kennedy: Broadway In Bryant Park is a really fun time! Audiences will get a taste of what they will hear in our show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical but the atmosphere is more of an outdoor concert. It’s really about the music.

Have you ever performed in a park before?

CK: Yes, I have performed in Bryant Park and Central Park, as well as in Atlantic City on the boardwalk. All of it was music from Beautiful and so much fun.

Do you have a favorite park in New York City?

CK: It’s hard to pick a favorite spot, but so far it’s the Cloisters and surrounding area in Fort Tryon Park. It’s stunningly-beautiful up there and it really feels like you’re out of the city. And so easy to get to!

What was your first paying role in a New York production?

CK: It was Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar.

What was the first Broadway play you ever say?

CK: Cats The Musical with my parents and best friend Nicko.

Do you have a favorite moment in Beautiful?

CK: I have many favorite moments and they change with every performance! One moment that often wins is the beginning of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”. It’s a quiet yet powerful moment.

What do you wish more people knew about the life of performing in a Broadway musical?

CK: I wish people knew how much work doing a musical is and how rewarding it can be. Theater of any kind is a team effort, no matter who is playing the lead or what size your part is. We all depend on each other and it’s a very collaborative art form.

Beautiful performances aside, what’s coming up for you?

CK: I’m working on some side projects, some writing and concerts. I also have an almost two-year old son and two dogs. They keep me very busy!

Do you have tickets to any concerts this summer? Or do you prefer to stay in when not having to perform?

CK: I love getting out to see theater or live music, so I try to see as much as I can. I like letting the wind take me where it wants so I tend not to plan ahead. Any music club or bar is fantastic to me if people are playing good music. I have yet to get tickets to Hamilton. There are many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows I’d like to see.

When not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time?

CK: With my son and two dogs. I’m also a board game fanatic and love reconnecting with friends. A walk in the park followed by a good game night after [son] Henry goes to bed is a perfect night for me.

Finally, Chilina, any last words for the kids?

CK: Listen to music — all kinds of music old and new. See theater and any other kind of performance art that you can. Go to art galleries. We are so culturally-rich, all you have to do is show up and buy a ticket, it will enrich your life in ways you won’t even understand.