A GoPride Interview

Celina Carvajal

Celina Carvajal kicks up her 'Kinky Boots' and talks to ChicagoPride.com

Thu. October 18, 2012  by Jerry Nunn

Celina Carvajal
Celina Carvajal plays Nicola the girlfriend of Charlie Price in the brand new musical Kinky Boots, which made its pre-Broadway debut in Chicago this week.

Carvajal is no stranger to Broadway appearing in Tarzan, Dracula, 42nd Street, and Cats. Her movie and television credits include Sex and the City and All My Children.

The lead singer of the rock band The Deafening, Carvajal is ready to wail in Chicago.

Here is an interview to read all about it.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hi, Celina. Tell me about you. Where are you from?

CC: (Celina Carvajal) I'm from San Francisco originally but I have lived in New York for 13 years now so I guess I am a New Yorker now.

JN: Did you study theater in school?

CC: I went to high school in San Francisco but I went to a school of the performing arts called S.O.T.A. I studied voice and dance. I had been a little prima ballerina since I was three years old. At 17 the national tour of Cats came through, I went and was cast. I went on tour with Cats right at the age of 18. I came through Chicago a couple of times. They moved me to Broadway and I was there until June of 2000.

JN: What part did you play?

CC: Demeter. So I never went to college and formally train. I got my college degree with Cats.

JN: Now you have done many shows.

CC: Yes, in 42nd Street I played Anytime Annie. I was in Dracula, which was great. It was the Frank Wildhorn one. It is the longest running vampire musical to date. It was only six months but still it has that one it. Then I did Tarzan.

JN: Was that with my buddy Josh Strickland?

CC: Yes, I love him. He's in Las Vegas doing Peepshow and doing very well.

JN: I went and saw it last year.

CC: He's a beautiful man with a beautiful voice. I took a big hiatus after Tarzan where I had my tonsils removed. I did a little bit of television and film. I had auditioned for Jerry Mitchell the director for Kinky Boots for a long time with Legally Blonde and several other shows. I did the Legally Blonde The Musical: The Search For Elle Woods reality show. I had red hair then. I am not right for the part but for some reason in my head I was perfect for the role.

JN: I love that!

CC: Jerry remembers me from that. I prayed that he wouldn't. I embarrassed myself on the show but it was a really fun experience. I did the Sex in the City movie with Annaleigh Ashford who plays Trish in Kinky Boots.

I played the only hooker ever on All My Children. I was only supposed to be on one episode but it became a recurring character. They liked my character and had me come back.

JN: Well, that's a compliment.

CC: I must have been a great prostitute!

JN: How did Kinky Boots happen for you?

CC: I was just auditioning for things. I had come back to Broadway but I wanted to do it my way and not just for money. I wanted to get back to loving the job. I heard about Kinky Boots with Cyndi Lauper and Jerry Mitchell. After auditioning they wanted to call me back but at the time I was doing Prometheus Bound. It was a play at A.R.T. in Boston. That was with Serj Tankian from System of a Down. It was this weird metal music.

JN: I know that band.

CC: I wanted to really do that project as well because I wanted to work with that group of people as well including Serj and director Diane Paulus. It was two dream teams. I got my call back for Kinky Boots when I was doing a workshop for Prometheus in Cambridge. I had to put myself on tape and pray that was enough. Everyone else got to be seen by Cyndi and Harvey. My boyfriend played guitar and we sent the tape. Luckily I got the job!

JN: That is wild.

CC: I put it on the Internet and literally an hour later I heard back from them. That was three years ago. They kept me coming back and I can't believe I have made it this far. Usually they recast the parts but I guess Annaleigh and I are the perfect girls for the show.

JN: You play the girlfriend?

CC: Yes, to Charlie who is very wishy-washy. His fiancé Nicola played by me knows what she wants. She wants to move to London and be in real estate. She doesn't want to stay in the small town of North Hampton. I am the antagonist to get him to do what I want. I'm not a bad character but I am pulling him in a different direction than the factory is pulling him. I do get to create a lot of conflict in the show.

JN: Someone last night described her as the bitchy girlfriend. Is that accurate?

CC: Yes, but there is a lot more to her. Characters that are strong always deemed bitchy. That's fine. I've been called bitchy before (both laugh)!

JN: So it is in previews until the big opening night.

CC: Yes, we are going to rehearse almost the entire time we are here. I think we are going to rehearse until the last week of shows. Yesterday there were some huge changes to the show.

JN: So it is really evolving.

CC: They are trying a few things. What is interesting is that when there are big changes to a show what it really needs is an audience, a set, lights, all of the elements in order for it to evolve more. With readings and workshops there was little to do because it was such a solid piece.

JN: I heard great things about the show so far.

CC: From the outside the show is not what it seems. You see legs with sparkly high-heeled boots on. The show is not really about that. It's more a human story. It's not like Priscilla, a drag show that hits you in the face like that immediately. It is a quieter story. I don't think quite understand when they first come in. It takes them a while to sit and pay attention to a story not just have glamour shoved in their faces. Billy Porter is amazing.

JN: I saw the preview in Millenium Park and thought he was so good.

CC: I worked with him once before. We did a show called Radiant Baby together about Keith Haring, who was a pop artist in the ‘80s and died of AIDS. I played Bladonna. They weren't allowed to call me Madonna. She was a hybrid of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. It was kind of funny. He played Sylvester who was the nightclub diva. It was a really great show but it was the time we went to war with Iraq so it didn't last. That was first time I worked with Billy and it has been ten years. It is crazy. I am totally different now.

JN: Do you have a solo in Kinky Boots?

CC: I do. It is toned down from what I usually do. I am a rock singer kind of like Guns N' Roses with a girl singer.

JN: What is the name of it?

CC: The Deafening. We are playing two gigs in Chicago. We play a midnight show at the Elbow Room the day after we open so technically on the 19th but the night off the 18th. I have to tell people we are playing the October 18 at 11:45 so people don't get confused! We are playing Martyrs on the 24th so I am going to run from my show to be there.

JN: Those are really great spaces.

CC: I can't wait to play. That is what I like about Kinky Boots because Cyndi knows that I am a rock singer and talks to me like that. I don't get to wail in the show. It is a compicated acting role, which is funny because I never thought of myself as the actor until now!

Kinky Boots the Musical officially opened Oct. 17 at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. Visit www.broadwayinchicago.com for tickets today before Boots heads to New York and The Great White Way!

Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.