Interview with Once on This Island star Kenita R. Miller
One of the most crowd-pleasing upsets at this year's Tony Awards ceremony was arguably Once on This Island's win in the category of "Best Revival of a Musical". Michael Arden's innovatively fresh production saw off strong competition from Carousel and My Fair Lady to take home the trophy and the box office at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre has been booming ever since.
One of the cornerstones of the production is Drama Desk Award winner Kenita R. Miller who plays Mama Euralie and whose renditions of "Ti Moune" and "A Part of Us" are filled with such emotional intensity that there isn't a dry eye in the house. Ms. Miller is no stranger to strong and sympathetic female roles, having played Celie in both the Broadway premiere and National Tour productions of The Color Purple and she has also appeared on the Great White Way in Xanadu. Along the way, she has also worked for such esteemed off-Broadway companies as Playwrights Horizons, Lincoln Center Theater, WP Theater and the Vineyard Theatre.
We recently caught up with Ms. Miller to chat about life on the island, handling chickens and appealing to young theatregoers...
Once on This Island was unashamedly my favorite production of the 2017-2018 season! What’s been your favorite part of your Once on This Island experience so far?
I’d have to say the cast. Well, that’s not my only favorite part. I’d say it was the cast and the environment. You don’t get to pick who you work with and we have a spoiling family of not just ridiculous talent but also ridiculously beautiful hearts. And then we get to jump around in the sand every day, you know. And we have chickens and we have goats! It’s kinda incredible!
I dare say other Broadway productions might be a little jealous of the fact that you folks have a goat in a diaper walking around the stage, Kenita…
Well, I can definitely say that I have a new addition to the ‘Special Skills’ section of my résumé now and it’s “works well with goats” (Laughs) and “works well with chickens”! I think I’ll be ‘The Chicken Whisperer’! I was chased by chickens when I was younger and I never thought I’d be handling them in a show, but it’s amazing!
I was walking past the Circle in the Square Theatre one evening and saw the two goats getting out of a van with Merle Dandridge greeting them on the sidewalk and I thought to myself: “Only in New York!”
Yes! Only in New York! (Laughs) They even have their own taxi cab! I mean, they have the life… seriously! Divas! (Laughs)
Sometimes you visit a Broadway show and the majority of the audience is a little long in the tooth, but Once on This Island seems to be attracting so many young theatregoers. What do you owe that to?
I think it’s because of the magic and the energy behind the actual story and the music. Also – a gift that our young people give to us is the reminder of resilience. I think this show represents resilience and it’s infectious in that way. The young ones are our future and another reminder that this show gives us is the importance of love and community. I’m like: “C’mon, young ones! ‘Cause you’re gonna be holding the torch and passing on the love and not forgetting it.”
I thought you were going to quote Whitney for a second then…
(Laughs) I believe that children ARE our future! Trust me – they’re going to do better than us.
Once on This Island Tickets are available now for performances through to September 29, 2019.