Olivier Award winner (and BroadwayBox favorite) Laura Michelle Kelly is nonstop! After a year starring as Anna in The King and I tour, LMK jumped into Encores! acclaimed revival of Me and My Girl, and now she's spending her summer in The Berkshires leading Barrington Stage Company's world premiere musical adaptation of The Royal Family of Broadway. Laura Michelle Kelly stars as Julie Cavendish (a Broadway star looking to find love offstage) in the new musical by Tony winner William Finn.
BroadwayBox caught up with Laura Michelle Kelly to talk about the challenges and rewards of this new musical, what she learned touring The King and I and advice for her Mary Poppins-aged self.
1. Seeing this show at Barrington Stage is on my summer bucket list. Tell me three things on yours. What do you have to do this summer?
I did one already. I went to Vermont for the first time, and that was special. I always wanted to work with [Royal Family director] John Rando, so that’s another thing done. For the third, I just got this hoverboard, and I’ve been carrying it around for months and I haven’t used it. I actually bought it to get around New York, until I realized it wasn’t allowed on the streets. But, I brought it with me to The Berkshires. I am excited to get on it. I just have to find the right occasion to use it.
2. What’s been the biggest challenge in your stage career so far?
It’s this one. I don’t quite know how Joshua Bergasse got me to do an entire opening number tap routine. I would have turned it down had I known. They never asked me if I could tap. I was panicking the first week, but I worked extremely hard on the tap. Whatever you see me do in this, it’s taken me a hundred times longer than the other dancers to get it. I had to do a lot of my own after hours work until 11 at night. It’s been the hardest workshop of my life. Bill’s [Finn] writing is nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced—it’s like Bill, Sondheim, and Michael John LaChiusa—it’s so difficult and unique.
It has been so intense. I thought Me and My Girl was scary but it was a finished show. This is a brand-new show and we had three and half weeks to put it on. It’s such a fast-paced musical with six lead characters that all have their own storylines. It’s complicated, but I am working with the best and I am surrounded by incredible actors.
3. If this has been the biggest challenge, then what’s the role in your career you’ve had the most fun onstage doing?
This! They are always together. The ones that are the biggest hurdle are also the ones that are the most fun in the end. The sense of achievement is huge. King and I was also one of the biggest challenges I ever had—a 45-pound dress and tour life for a year and half without a day off. The dress was like choreographing a whale! As I get older, I thought things would get easier but they are getting way harder.
4. What did you learn about yourself on tour with The King and I?
A lot of things. I learned that I could live with less. I didn’t need to carry two big bags to each place to be comfortable. All I need is daylight, good healthy water (sometimes you couldn’t trust the water) and quiet time on my own. I learned how much I could love a cast. You saw them more than your own family.
I also learned how much I could endure, and that I’m not a robot and I need to stop from time to time. You can’t do it all. I think the demands on actors are more and more. Artists have to endure a lot to do the thing that they love. We did 16 shows in a row without a break, and that was really hard. I didn’t know I could that. I learned that I’d like to one day be an advocate for actors.
5. If you could give one piece of advice to yourself during Mary Poppins, what would you tell her?
My 23/24-year-old self? I’d say stop being afraid what people think of you. Don’t do things for other people’s approval. Be at peace with yourself and enjoy it. Ultimately, what you remember is people and your experience with them. If you worry too much, you don’t have time for people. On your deathbed, you don’t wish you worked more, you wish you’d spent more time with people.
Don't miss Laura Michelle Kelly in The Royal Family of Broadway at Barrington Stage Company through July 7.