Klea Blackhurst's voice has been radiating in my ears for years! I was thrilled to get to first interview Klea last year (2015) when she starred in the concert version of Stephen Cole and David Evans' show Merman's Apprentice at Birdland.
Now, it's a joy to catch up with Klea as she gets ready to star in the new, original musical The Real Actors of NYC, about an infuriated trio of musical theatre actors determined to make it on Broadway by any means necessary. In The Real Actors of NYC, "Mumz" has a 30 year old grudge that it’s time to settle. When a "Young Marge" casts her friend instead of the amazingly talented "Young Mumzy Taylor," it sets in motion a lifetime of disappointment and shattered dreams for "Mumz." She loses her mind and creates her own reality. Now she has the chance to get back at the one person who screwed her over and ruined her life. Watch out: it’s going to be a bumpy ride and digits (fingers) will be lost in the process!
The Real Actors of NYC plays at the Anne L. Bernstein Theater at The Theater Center in NYC (50th & Broadway) Thursdays at 8pm and Saturdays at 4:45pm and 10:30pm. Click here for tickets!
1. This September you are starring in the open run of the new original Off-Broadway musical The Real Actors of NYC. What initially attracted you to this show? THE INVITATION TO JOIN…Since then it’s been a non-stop love fest. I listened to "Mumz" number, "Goodnight, My Pretties," and it really captured a love of theatre that I understand at a very deep and slightly delusional level. Sometimes you land a job and wonder "how could it possibly have taken this long to find this group of friends."
2. What do you relate to most about your character "Mumz"? The feeling of nostalgia for a world that never was…New York 30 years ago. Was I ever really that young? Why did I ever let my feelings get hurt and stay hurt?
3. What is one trait of "Mumz" you wish you had in your own life? Total fearlessness as the sum total of time and trouble.
4. The Real Actors of NYC is about an infuriated trio of musical theatre actors determined make it on Broadway by any means. With that premise in mind, what is the craziest or most conniving thing you've done to get an audition or role that you've really wanted? Sadly, I’ve never been conniving enough. I only THINK about going all out, but lack the courage to follow through. Once upon a time, I thought about climbing to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge with a banner that said I wanted to play "Mama Morton" on Broadway or I was gonna jump. I thought the Weisslers might actually admire that and give me a shot.
5. Your character, "Mumz," holds a 30-year grudge against the casting director who did not cast her when she was starting out. If you are holding a grudge against someone, now is your chance to clear the air. What would you say to this person if they were standing in front of you? Would you forgive them or if you were at fault, would you apologize to them? One of the people who did the most emotional damage in my mind was actually standing in front of me a few weeks ago, an agent I’d met with a lifetime ago. Rather than go into the grudge, something about being told I was too fat to be working in show business circa 1988. I decided it was a therapy issue and took it to a professional!! The real truth is I did the damage to myself by letting his words hurt me. If I approached him now, he probably wouldn’t even remember the remark and of course I look back at my resume photo and see I was an adorable young lady just walking out into the world for the first time. I wish I’d laughed in his face and left the meeting. Instead I believed him.
6. What is one role that you were not cast in that you really wanted and to this day feel you deserved? I can’t even go there. There is one situation unfolding right now that makes me want to burst into tears.
7. As a result of not being cast at a young age, "Mumz" has suffered a lifetime of disappointment and shattered dreams. What is one shattered dream that you have endured? How have you recovered from it or what steps are you still taking to recover? Oh, I’ve had so my disappointments and shattered dreams. One biggie is the failure to bring The Nutty Professor into New York. We had a premiere in Nashville in 2012. It ended up being Marvin Hamlisch’s final score. He and Rupert Holmes had just started collaborating and they were magical together. I was hand picked as a "21st Century Kathleen Freeman" in the words of Jerry Lewis, who was adapting and directing. So that felt like something special. "Kathleen Freeman" was a truly brilliant character actress and thought it was a sign that my character years had arrived. I thought the tables might be turning and I’d finally get a Broadway show and be part of the popular kids club.
8. This event also caused "Mumz" to lose her mind and create her own reality. When has there been a time in your life when you had to come up with your own reality? What reality did you design for yourself? My whole world is my creation. It’s the only way to survive a life in the arts. It’s all going to be alright in my world. I say yes to just about every opportunity in my world, because it takes me to the right place.
9. If Klea today, gave advice to "Mumz" at any stage of her life, what stage would you advise her on and what would you tell her? I would go to the young "Mumzy," hitting NYC for the very first time, still young enough to see it all as possibility and magical. I’d take her by the shoulders, make eye contact and BEG her to take none of what’s about to happen personally.
10. In our interview last year, you mentioned that you would like to improve your exercise consistency by 1% better everyday. How has that improvement been going? If well, what have you done? If you haven't been consistent, what has been preventing you from getting there? I think I’m doing 365% better! I’ve become mindful by wearing a tracker on my wrist and meeting my goals there. I also go to Weight Watchers. My steps are up and my weight is down. I love it.
Klea Blackhurst just completed the title role in the world premiere of Hazel at Drury Lane in Chicago. Klea starred in Goodspeed Opera’s 50th anniversary production of Hello, Dolly! and the world premiere of the Marvin Hamlisch/Rupert Holmes musical, The Nutty Professor, directed by Jerry Lewis. Theatre: NY- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Bingo, By Jupiter, Radio Gals, Oil City Symphony; Regional credits include Annie Get Your Gun/Glimmerglass Opera, Call Me Madam/42nd Street Moon,Chicago/Pioneer Theatre Company in her hometown of Salt Lake City and several productions of Anything Goes. TV/radio: Former prosecutor, "Shelby Cross" on Onion News Network, The Knick, Sesame Street, and Prairie Home Companion. Known for her Ethel Merman tribute, Everything The Traffic Will Allow, her other shows are Autumn in New York: Vernon Duke’s Broadway and Dreaming of a Song: The Music of Hoagy Carmichael, in collaboration with Billy Stritch. With Jim Caruso, their annual Christmas show at Birdland is in its seventh year. She’s appeared in legendary halls from The London Palladium to Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall to Jazz at Lincoln Center and with symphony orchestras from Atlanta to Philly. Klea is a charter member of the Jerry Herman Legacy Concerts and a distinguished Alumna of the University of Utah.