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Q&A: Hailey Kilgore of ‘Once On This Island’

Category Actor Spotlight

|by Jeryl Brunner |


The Oregon native is living the stuff of fairy tales

Hailey Kilgore stars as Timoune in the Broadway smash revival Once On This Island. The joyous musical with Caribbean dance and rhythms celebrates how love can transform and empower us in ways we never knew existed. Once On This Island was directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden (Deaf West’s Spring Awakening). Legendary Tony-winning songwriters, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Anastasia and Ragtime), wrote the show’s music and lyrics. 

Hailey Kilgore in 'Once On This Island' on Broadway' (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Hailey Kilgore in 'Once On This Island' on Broadway' (Photo: Joan Marcus)

When did you know you had to be a performer? 
Hailey Kilgore:
In the fourth grade our class did a production of The Nutcracker.  I had the tiniest part imaginable. It was very cheesy. I played the doll. A little boy ended up in a magic toy shop where there was a doll. He crossed over to the doll and said, “Oh my gosh!  It’s a singing doll!” He pulled the string and I sang Jingle Bells. When I finished singing, I remember getting so much applause. I thought, ohhhhh, this feels nice. I caught the bug. I really love the aspect of expressing emotion through song.

What was one of the first Broadway shows you ever saw? 
Hailey Kilgore:
Something Rotten. I was in New York for the National August Wilson Monologue Competition, which was directed by Kenny Leon. It was my first time in New York City. We got to go see Something Rotten and talk to some actors afterward.  I remember being really inspired that day. Brian d’Arcy James is a cool dude. He has no idea who I am, but I remember thinking he is very good at what he does. You can see his passion and drive.

How did you get into the competition?
Hailey Kilgore
: I was a thespian. My high school theater teacher told me about this brand new program called the Red Door Project, She said, “I think this is something you would be interested in.” Kevin Jones, the creator of the project and the volunteers, really taught me how to be vulnerable and open myself up. They gave me those beginning tools for my toolbox.

If someone would have said to you at Something Rotten, not too far in the future, you will be making your Broadway debut. What would you say? 
Hailey Kilgore:
You’re crazy! This stuff doesn’t happen.  What’s happening to me is really what you only see in movies or on TV. My story is not your typical Broadway story. There are women and men who get up every day and go to countless auditions. And they don’t hear anything. I’m a girl from from Happy Valley, Oregon, a place that no one knows exists. I came to New York to reach my dreams. And the fact that it’s happening and so quickly, is rare. I’m very fortunate. And I’m very, very humbled to be a part of this.

When you first arrived in New York City, what went though your mind? 
Hailey Kilgore:
I thought, that’s Macys! And that’s Times Square!  It literally looked like the movies. And now, I live here. I think, stay away from Times Square. There are too many people.

What qualities does Timoune have that you love? 
Hailey Kilgore:
She just wants to play and have an open heart. She’s adventurous. Also, we are living in a time where everybody wants to close off their heart to protect themselves and others.  I want people to experience the warmth you feel when you see Timoune. When you see Daniel. When you see them together. When you hear Lea Salonga sing. When you watch Alex Newell dance. That is an experience in itself. Lynn and Stephen wrote such an incredible show. And they have reimagined it so beautifully. It’s so specific, intricate and moving. 

When you are not working, what do you like to do? 
Hailey Kilgore
: I love soccer and kicking the ball around. My little sister, Zekiah, played soccer growing up and it taught her to be tough. So that is what I like. And I can get dirty.

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