In the unpredictable world of musical theatre, Chilina Kennedy has learned to expect the unexpected. Take the time the chandelier dropped during Mama Mia or the Orcs fell into the orchestra during the musical The Lord of the Rings.
So the 33-year-old Oromocto, New Brunswick native–whose iconic roles have included Eva Perón and Anne of Green Gables (in Charlottetown, no less)–didn’t bat an eye when the audience broke into spontaneous applause before a performance of Stratford’s Jesus Christ Superstar, in which she starred as Mary Magdalene. “I thought maybe somebody had proposed,” she says.
Instead, the uproar was for legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was drawn by the buzz surrounding Governor General Award-Winning director Des McAnuff’s Stratford revival of the 1969 rock opera. The show updates the classic stage show, adding hip-hop choreography and a new emphasis on Mary Magdalene, Judas and Jesus’ relationship—a holy trinity reimagined as a love triangle.
Webber was so taken by the Canadian production, he threw his support behind a campaign to mount it on Broadway. The show, which opened March 22, is the realization of everything Kennedy had hoped for: to perform on the same strip that spawned performers such as Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked) and Lea Michele (Spring Awakening).
“Broadway was my ultimate goal,” she says. “I really wanted to do Jesus Christ Superstar, I wanted to play Mary. So I’m getting to do that and I’m getting to go to Broadway with it. It’s pretty much a dream come true.”
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