"I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE ROLE; IT REQUIRES A LOT FROM THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYS LILY. THE COMEDY CHOPS ARE MAJOR, THE VOCAL CHOPS ARE CHALLENGING AND TOUGH, AND PHYSICALLY IT’S A KILLER.”
TS: Do you think this is a love story between Oscar and Lily?
KC: Absolutely. I think they do love each other. I think that they’ve never had anybody else who truly understands who they are, and that’s what keeps them linked. That’s why she can’t really love anyone but Oscar. She says, “He might be a swine, but he’s got something no one else has got.” And that’s talent—she believes in his talent, and he believes in hers. I think they are each other’s aphrodisiac.
TS: Do you see Oscar as Lily’s Svengali?
KC: Yes, yes. She says, “Svengali in an alley hit hard times.” I do see that he was her Svengali, but when she got hurt by him—then once she surpassed him—she viewed him as a has-been. But I think she believes that he still has it and can still do it, but she would never, ever admit that he’s her Svengali. The truth is, she’s looking for his approval in everything she does.
TS: Are you looking forward to working with Peter Gallagher?
KC: I just adore that man. I think he’s going to be the real surprise here.
TS: How do you like to collaborate with a director, choreographer, and musical director? Can you give us a sense of what you look for?
KC: I have to feel, number one, very safe. And 99 percent of the time, I have felt that. I’m willing to go out on a limb and see what works. Scott Ellis cast me in John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Steel Pier—my first Broadway musical. I was a nobody. Scott, John, and Fred all
seemed to think I might be able to offer something, and they allowed me to do that. Kevin Stites, the music director, and I have a working relationship from prior performances, so he knows my voice. He knows my flexibility. He knows when I’m tired. He knows when I’m good. And Warren Carlyle directed and choreographed me in Stairway to Paradise a few years back at Encores! I don’t think I could be in better hands. I feel so lucky to be part of this team.
TS: Will you tell us about your training. Did you have any great teachers?
KC: I grew up singing in church, and I took piano lessons at Tulsa University. I did ballet. That was the original dream, to be a ballerina. But over time it became apparent that I really wanted to sing, and I focused more on that, and my parents were smart enough to say, “You need to go to college. Whatever it is you do, you need to go to college.” It was really important to my dad, especially, that I got a degree. I visited a couple of schools, and I came upon OCU. They had a great music, drama, and dance program there. And they had a musical theatre program. Not very many schools had that yet.
At OCU, I met Florence Birdwell, who changed the course of my life. The first time we met, she took me to her studio after my audition and said, “You’ll have the highest of highs here and the lowest of lows, but the important thing is, you’ll be ready when you leave.” I didn’t really quite know what she meant. The first time I got up in front of a master class to sing, I thought I killed it. Everybody was clapping and she said, “I just can’t wait to teach you how to sing.” I was devastated. And of course, I now understand what she meant. She meant, not just technically, because I have natural ability, but from the soul. She taught me to look for what songs mean, what the lyric is, and all the things that I’ve come to understand about singing. Tons of people have voices, but to be a true singer and an artist, what does that take? I got my master’s degree in opera and had a shift of career plans. I
thought I was going to go to Philadelphia to do graduate work at the Academy of Vocal Arts. I was accepted into that program, but I went to New York with my friend Benny and got a part at the Paper Mill Playhouse in a show I’d never heard of about the Marx Brothers, whom I vaguely knew. I had a decision to make right then and there: Was I going to do opera, or was I going to do musical theatre and stay in New York? I guess you know the end of that story.•
ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY UPSTAGE GUIDE
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