Kennedy began performances March 7 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Tony winner Mueller played her final performance March 6. Click here to read Playbill.com's exit interview with Mueller: Jessie Mueller Looks Back On Beautiful, Ahead to Waitress and Thanks Her Biggest Fan, Her Grandma.
On her first performance, Kennedy told Playbill.com, "It was great. It was overwhelming. I had a two-show day my first day, so my opening was actually a matinee. I had a matinee and then an evening, and then a matinee the following day, so it was a whirlwind!"
In anticipation of her Beautiful debut, Kennedy documented her experience with a photo diary for Playbill.com. Click through for exclusive pictures and backstage scoop from the show's new leading lady that were taken during the week leading up to her first performance.
You know how there's that little bit of "Tapestry" in the show? She sings, "A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold…" I had to pre-record that in the studio, so I thought that was a fun one to take a shot of. There are also a few lines that are recorded because I'm doing a super, super fast change into [the] Carnegie Hall [scene], so I had to record those as well. I think it was the week of my opening, so it was last week, probably three or four days before the opening.
That was my final "official" fitting. I had some other sort of little, last-minute things, but that was my final "try things on for the last time" fitting before I opened. That was quite exciting, actually, because we did it over at Tricorne, and of course, they're fantastic over there. Everybody from the top designers to the people who stitch things together — they're just unbelievable. They're great artists over there, and they do so many of the Broadway shows, too. You see pieces from Mamma Mia! and wonderful posters of all these original productions. It's very cool.
[From left to right: assistant costume designer Rory Powers, Chilina Kennedy and assistant wardrobe supervisor Shana Albery.] Rory just finished fitting the show in London, and he just came back. They're all lovely. It's a bit of a whirlwind. There are different people — there's one person who will cut and sew two of my costumes, and then somebody else will cut and sew some of the other costumes, and then there are assistants. It takes a team to bring all this stuff to life! I don't think people realize, sometimes, how many people are actually working on the show at a given time. It's really quite incredible. And they're all incredible craftsman and artisans in their own right.
This was a fun one. That was the day that I was tracking Jessie backstage. Usually, when you're replacing somebody, it's helpful, and I did this twice. I did it when Jessie was out one day, and her understudy was on, and then I did it one day with Jessie, just to get two cracks it. I just follow her around with a notepad to see where things happen — how much time the changes take, the backstage traffic, what I need to look out for, so I don't get bopped in the head by a big set piece or something like that… The [picture with] Carole between us was taken in her dressing room, which is now my dressing room. She has this wonderful spread of Carole on the sofa.
This was Jessie's idea. She's got a wicked sense of humor! I just love her. I don't know her very well, but she's great! In the short amount of time I spent with her, she's fabulous. She said, "Wouldn't it be funny if we got a shot of you and Scott [J. Campbell, who plays Gerry Goffin] looking cute and then me jealous in the background?" I said, "Sure! Let's do it!" I thought that was hilarious.
This moment was ridiculous. That was one of the best moments, truthfully, in my life. I mean, I had just done the show, and it's such a whirlwind. You can't even really stop to think about it while you're doing this show because it's so fast-paced. Really, I'm on the whole show — or quick-changing. So, when it finally was over, I just took a deep breath and went, "Oh my gosh, I just did that." Like I told people before, I don't think I've ever been so warmly received into a company in my life. The people have just been incredible — all the way from the designers and the director — every single person in the building has been incredibly gracious. So that moment of taking the bow — when I walked out on stage and saw the smiles on the other actors' faces, and they were applauding me, my heart burst with gratitude and joy. I get verklempt talking about it, truthfully, because it was such a wonderful, wonderful moment. And then to hear the audience's reaction on top of that, it was a dream come true!
This was during "I Feel the Earth Move," and then the producers did a wonderful thing...
I received a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses at the end of that, which was so kind. They're such wonderful men, those two, Mike [Bosner] and Paul [Blake].