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Final Bow: Hailey Kilgore Is Just Beginning Her Story With Once on This Island

The musical's 19-year-old star reflects on her momentous Broadway debut.

Hailey Kilgore will just miss celebrating her 20th birthday with the cast of Once on This Island, but these last few years of her teens have certainly set a high bar as she moves into the next stage of her young career.

In November 2017, Kilgore made her Broadway debut as the idealistic Ti Moune in Michael Arden's Tony-winning revival of the Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty musical. A little over a year later, she holds the prestigious titles of Tony and Grammy nominee, and has already landed her first major TV gig on the upcoming NBC series The Village. Fingers crossed that Kilgore will make many returns to the stage, but before she departs Circle in the Square Theatre (as the show ends its run on January 6, 2019), we asked her to look back on her time playing in Broadway's favorite sandbox.

Hailey Kilgore stars as Ti Moune in Michael Arden's Broadway revival of Once on This Island at Circle in the Square Theatre.
(© David Gordon)

1) What is your favorite line that you get to say?
My whole last monologue. A lot of people don't understand that this is real, both in history and in life. I mean, I was just at Penn Station early, early in the morning, and there are people digging through garbage and fighting to find a place to sleep. I remember my third week of rehearsals, a woman came up to me looking for someone, and I had no idea who they were or why she needed them, but the desperation was real. It's not about the pretty moments for me. It's about digging into the wounds that we so frequently hide in this day and age and really healing them.

2) What is your cast's best inside joke?
"Hey, want a cold one?"

3) What was the worst technical difficulty you experienced during the run, and how was it handled?
We have the best sound team ever. Back up. Every person working backstage to make this show go as smooth as possible is absolutely unreal! It all looks so cool, and behind every cool effect, costume change, anything — there is someone backstage working really hard to keep it working as smooth as possible. Our sound system did not like humidity. There was one show in particular where the whole system crashed, so…no sound, no nothing, and the actors onstage have no vocal monitors! Because this cast is unreal, we all kept going. But backstage, Bridgette and Max were shutting off and restarting everything, and they did it all in two seconds. Wizardry at its finest.

4) What is the most interesting present you received at the stage door?
Food that did not look like food.

5) Who is the coolest person to come see the show?
Cicely Tyson and Chadwick Boseman. Lit.

6) You've had a successful run in a Tony-winning Broadway revival. What's the next revival you'd like to star in?
Ragtime and Caroline, or Change!

7) Who would you consider your biggest career role model?
Quentin Earl Darrington and Kenita R. Miller.

8) What's the strangest clothing item or personal effect you've found sand in after a performance?
A fake nail.

9) Which was more nerve-racking: your first Broadway preview or performing at the Tonys?
Preview for sure! The Tonys was the best night of my life!

10) Looking back on your experience in Once on This Island, what has been the most surprising aspect of making your Broadway debut?
I really underestimated myself. You could see it in my work. The world of Broadway can be really intimidating when you first enter it! But now, looking at the work we're all doing is enough to make me cry. This has been such a huge honor, and I can't wait to see where everyone goes from here!

Once on This Island plays its final performance on January 6, 2019.
(© Joan Marcus)