Broadway Star Kennedy Caughell, on tour, shares her ‘Beautiful…’ views

By Glenda Rice Collins, For Bartlesville Magazine, Spring 2020*  Updated 3-18-20

Bartlesville, Okla., USA — Last September, musical theatre ‘triple-threat’ performer Kennedy Caughell stepped into a major leading role as the star of the current Broadway North American touring production of the “Tony,” “Grammy” and Olivier Award-winning production, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  Next came hometown ovations!

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Kennedy Caughell, onstage, starring as Carole King in the Beautiful: The Carole King Musical North American tour. Photo by Joan Marcus.

By mid-October, Caughell was wowing her “mid-America” hometown audience as the local 2019-2020 Broadway in Bartlesville! series featured the touring production here. Positioned at the piano, center stage, at the Bartlesville Community Center concert hall, in the opening scene, her words from the official script rang true.  While the musical’s first Carole King song poignantly speaks lyrically of being So Far Away, (“Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?”) the script dictates Caughell’s first spoken words, as Carole:  “…but being here tonight is like being home again!” 

Tracye & Kennedy Caughell 2019

Mom, Tracye Caughell, and leading lady Kennedy Caughell pause in front of the Broadway in Bartlesville! lighted display at the Bartlesville Community Center, following the October 15, 2019 Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, North American tour performance in the Broadway star’s hometown. Tracye, is founder of Children’s Musical Theatre of Bartlesville. Photo by Glenda Rice Collins

And Caughell truly was, “home again,” playing to a full house of cheering, familiar fans who seemed to share a sense of pride in this gifted woman’s personal qualities as well as her soaring star status. Brava!

Kennedy & Emily Thresher 2019

Kennedy Caughell hugs an admirer, Emily Thresher, a fellow stage performer, at the Bartlesville “meet and greet” after the show. The two actresses performed in a recent Craft Productions of Oklahoma staging of Mary Poppins, the Broadway musical in Tulsa, in which Caughell starred. Photo by Glenda Rice Collins

At a BCC post production “meet and greet” reception Q & A that night, when asked about their favorite moments on the Beautiful…  stage, more than one cast member said, “hearing Kennedy sing,” which speaks volumes about her compatibility  and talent. “This is a very special cast,” Caughell said later, “more like a supportive family. You don’t always have that.”

Caughell & Loehr

Broadway musical touring veterans, Kennedy Caughell and Matt Loehr, took questions at the post production “meet and greet” at the Bartlesville Community Center. While Kennedy stars as Carole King in the current North American tour of the Beautiful… musical, Matt portrays the producer, Don Kirshner: “Love my job!” Photo by Glenda Rice Collins

 

This cast included featured Broadway touring veterans:  Kennedy Caughell, James D. Gish, Kathryn Boswell, James Michael Lambert, Matt Loehr, and Rachel Coloff in performance October 15, 2019, at the Bartlesville Community Center, Marie Foster Performing Arts Hall. Bravo!

That So Far Away song continues:

Kings lyrics: “One more song about moving along the highway…..Travelling around sure gets me down and lonely…I sure hope the road don’t come to own me…There’s so many dreams I’ve yet to find.”

To meet the deadline for this (Bartlesville Magazine)* publication, I caught up with Kennedy for a follow-up phone interview following her Toronto, Ontario tour visit, and between her matinee and evening performances in Wilmington, Delaware one Saturday in mid-November.

By now, if Caughell stays on the musical tour, she will have completed scheduled performances in 15 U.S. cities in December: from several Florida. Georgia and Alabama stages to Tennessee and Connecticut.  Her New Year’s Eve performance was scheduled at The Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina, continuing through January 5.  

Caughell & cast

Pictured onstage are:
Kathryn Boswell as Cynthia Weil, Kennedy Caughell as Carole King, and James Michael Lambert as Barry Mann, in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on tour. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Caughell’s current Beautiful… contract is in effect until June 2020, but details can change daily. “Some actors’ contracts provide ‘outs’ for unpredictable Broadway offers or television appearances,” she said.

“Our travel is mostly by bus,” Caughell shared. “Our entire show fits into three trucks, who usually drive overnight to the next venue. We have to roll with the punches and carry on. For your art, there’s a lot to have to sacrifice. It’s not easy doing eight shows a week. A lot of time is not your own…and you might have to miss a good friend’s wedding.

“We get up super early. At the end of this week, we get up at 6 a.m. for a 6:30 “Go,” and some six hours on the road.”  

About that script?

“It’s so fun when art starts imitating life,” says Caughell. “It’s such a gift when you have a show that has such an amazing book (script).  You don’t always have that, and then you have to justify more, throughout the performances, and it’s more work for you as an actor. When you’re lucky enough to have an amazing ‘book’…you can allow the lines to do the work for you, and relax into the text. Beautiful… is one of those musicals where, when you read the lines, you know it’s a great book.”

And the lyrics throughout the show —  many co-written by King and Gerry Goffin, her first husband — musically echo the story fluently, of both the joy and pain that paralleled their young lives together.  From Will You Love Me Tomorrow to Up On the Roof, It’s Too Late, and that rock-on Beautiful… curtain call hit, I Feel the Earth Move, their rock ‘n roll music illuminated the 1960’s and beyond, and defined the era.

Based on the real life story of American singer-songwriter and pianist Carole King (b. February 9, 1942 in Manhattan, NYC, as Carol Joan Klein), the “book” sheds light on her own compassionate qualities as an enlightened human being, and her capacity for personal growth. As a spirited, teenage prodigy, when she began to market her music to producers in New York City, for others to sing and popularize, her talent was prolific. Later in life, she mastered a “solo” career, singing her own songs at the piano, and produced her now legendary Tapestry album in 1971.

The Real Carole King

Caughell: “I was amazed at the amount of songs that I had no idea that she wrote…and the tenacity to achieve her passion.  She was just 16, and what hit me was about her capacity for love. She had the courage to be kind even when it’s hard…even with setbacks (and betrayals).

“I truly believe that she is a genius, even if she was creating right now, …she’s (still) on another level, to understand the music and to poke right at your heart,” with her profound lyrics and music synergy.

Art Imitates Life

Caughell interprets that in Act I,  regarding the contemplative song, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, “Goffin brilliantly captures the spirit of the woman… and she begins to step into her own (strength).  

“By the time she sings Natural Woman, in Act II, (Carole) fully steps into her own, and begins to realize herself being wronged (in the young marriage)…Everyone is hurt in life, but if you can forgive and let go, you can go pretty far (as Carole did)…to be able to look in the mirror and love what you see. In my generation, there’s a tendency to play the victim.  If you do that, then you are the victim!”

Hear Kennedy Caughell sing Natural Woman on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBCaTacovQ4.

Recipes for Success

For young, precocious King, it was a journey from her home in Brooklyn, N.Y. to the Big Apple to market her music to major producers. (Access within reach: right place, right time). For Caughell, who grew up on a farm in small-town Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the path would seem to be more circuitous.

“A lot of success in this world depends on perfect timing and perfect placement,” Caughell says. “Don’t worry about that. What is meant for you, you will get someday. Don’t worry about forcing yourself. Good quality work cannot be ignored. Continue studying and be the best you can be. You never know when your time will come.”

Caughell in Helene costume

A glamorous Kennedy Caughell poses for her Mom, backstage during her Broadway debut as Helene in The Great Comet of 1812. Photo provided.

Talent: It’s all in the family

“My Mom (Tracye Caughell, a founder of Children’s Musical Theatre of Bartlesville) is an amazing force of creativity to be reckoned with,” Kennedy explains. “I owe her a lot. It was Caitlyn (Kennedy’s sister) and I who dragged her into the world of theatre. Once we got a taste of it, we wanted more/.. (Mom) made opportunity for kids where there was hardly any. It solidified my path, up through middle school and high school. Children’s Musical Theatre was the driving force to make me realize, I want to be an actor.”

Caitlyn Caughell has performed on Broadway as an original cast member of ‘Disney’s Newsies!’ and “across the globe” in multiple Actor’s Equity Tours. In 2016, the Caughell sisters were featured together as musical theatre guest vocalists with the Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra, during the annual OK Mozart Festival, now known as OKM Music, still regarded as “Oklahoma’s premier music festival.”

“Our Dad is very musical, and often played the guitar,” says Kennedy. “We would sing together. D’Lynn Everett, (Everett Music Studios teacher of vocal music, and talent coach), is his sister. Aunt D’Lynn would teach us how to harmonize at the piano, when we were young.

“I still play (piano), and I like to write a lot: instrumental music, praise and worship, and pop. I’m currently working on an album.” Kennedy studied piano with Margaret Boesiger from ages 6 to 18. Susan Mueller and Nancy Rovenstine were also her hometown mentors.

On the Road Again

The January 2020 Beautiful… touring company leapt onto the Mother Lode Theatre stage in Butte, MT, January 13; the Eccles stage in Logan, UT, January 14; then on to a series of four California stages before landing on the Capitol Theatre stage in Yakima, WA, January 28 – 29; and the Royal Theatre in Victoria, BC January 31 – February 2. 

2020 chances to see Kennedy Caughell on the Beautiful…  tour, in mid-America, included: February 18 – 19 at the Amarillo, TX Civic Center; Feb. 25 – 26 at Pikes Peak Center, Colorado Springs, CO;  and March 10, 2020 at Reynolds Hall in Conway, Arkansas.

Coronavirus intrudes for now (Stay home and read more uplifting arts news here)!

Several Texas performances on the Beautiful… tour loomed forth in March, before the daunting uncertainties of the current coronavirus pandemic. For a complete and updated list of the continuing North American touring dates, and details, visit website: https://beautifulonbroadway.com/tour/

For 2020 Broadway in Bartlesville! season updates, visit https://www.bartlesvillecommunitycenter.com/broadway-in-bartlesville-calendar-events.

For Children’s Musical Theatre of Bartlesville updates, including upcoming classes and performance dates, visit https://cmtonstage.com.

To read more about arts related perspectives, visit https://glendaricecollins.com“News features related to various dimensions of the arts world.” Glenda Rice Collins is a Bartlesville-based freelance journalist, blogger, and arts columnist.

Credits: Banner photo by Joan Marcus. Video link: YouTube.

*View original article at: https://issuu.com/examiner-enterprise/docs/bv_mag_spring_2020. Published February 2020 by Bartlesville Magazine, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, GANNETT. Edited and updated for blog post, with production photos and video link added.

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