Hailey Kilgore makes New York debut in 'Once On This Island'
Hailey Kilgore embodies the local-girl-makes-good story. On Dec. 3, Kilgore, a 2016 graduate of Clackamas Web Academy, made her Broadway debut in the musical "Once On This Island," and her parents traveled to New York City to be in the audience.
"There's something magical that occurs during an official opening night of a Broadway show; it's hard to explain, but her dad and I have been using the word 'surreal' a lot in the last eight months," said Becky Kilgore.
"Hailey kept some things secret, so that first time we saw her on stage, we weren't sure right away it. But when it sunk in, I think I gasped a bit and her dad had to pull out his handkerchief," she said.
But it was her daughter's dramatic second entrance as the character Ti Moune that Kilgore finds hard to describe.
"Applause broke out throughout the audience. To have that kind of reception before she's even spoken her first word is an amazing thing to witness as a mom," she said.
"There are no words to express witnessing your child's dream come true. It's just something you 'feel' with every fiber of your being."
Hailey Kilgore, now 18, attended Clackamas High School as a freshman and sophomore, appearing in musicals and other plays. When she was cast in Portland Center Stage's "Our Town" and "Ain't Misbehavin," she transferred to the Web Academy to take advantage of its flexible schedule.
She graduated from the CWA at the end of her junior year and moved to New York to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy's musical theater program. While in a class last spring, she received a call from a casting manager asking if she would audition for Ti Moune the following week.
Realizing the role would affect her schooling, she called her parents to make sure they would support her auditioning. They did, and she accepted the opportunity.
"Hailey had three more call-back auditions before she was cast as Ti Moune for a weeklong workshop and industry reading in June. Then auditioned again for a monthlong workshop in September. After that workshop, she was officially cast as Ti Moune," her mother said.
Kilgore acknowledged that her daughter's experience at Clackamas High School has given Hailey the tools to appear in a Broadway musical.
"The wonderful thing about her experience at CHS is the theater department utilizes working theater professionals," she said.
Students receive an opportunity to experience real, professional theater within a supportive, educational environment, Kilgore said.
"Students are expected to participate in all aspects of what it takes to put on a production working directly with the pros. [It] can't get any better than that."
As for "Once on This Island," her mother said the experience "has been amazing, wonderful, challenging, loving and at times grueling."
The musical is the tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures keep them apart, Ti Moune is guided by the powerful island gods on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart.
Very early in the process, "we told Hailey that her experience is the fairy tale of Broadway. That shows and movies are written based on her journey: young girl from small town heads to NYC and becomes a star."
Her parents also told her that she is a "one in a million" girl and to never forget that.
"Our advice turned into a daily mantra: Be grateful, be honored and be humble," Kilgore said.
She noted that the entire "Once On This Island" family has been so encouraging and supportive of one another.
"Everyone involved, from the producers to directors, to musicians, to actors, to the tech and stage crews, they are so genuine and kind," Kilgore said.
"This has been the best group of people for her to have this 'first' with. They are really looking out for her as a person, who just happens to be an actor. I just can't say enough about how wonderful they've been," she added.
As for college, given her current schedule, "Hailey has left school. She has to devote all of her time and energy to her work and would not have been able to do that and school. She still talks of getting her degree, but for now she's focusing on the present," Kilgore said.
Corey Brunish, another Clackamas County resident, also was in the audience opening night of "Once on This Island."
When Hailey Kilgore made her entrance that night, Brunish said it was "Electric. The crowd applauded wildly; a star is born."
Brunish and his wife are producers of "Once On This Island," along with a number of other plays and musicals on Broadway.
"We are so pleased that the show is being universally embraced. I have sat in a lot of post-opening meetings and this one was special," he said.
He added, "I wept during this show; it is just so enchanting. So uplifting. To say we need this show in the world right now is an understatement."
Living the dream
What: Hailey Kilgore stars in "Once on This Island"
Where: Circle in the Square Theater, 1633 Broadway, New York
When: The musical's website has tickets available through Dec. 30, 2018.
Reviews: Jesse Green's theater review in Dec. 4 New York Times calls the musical "a big, bold delight." Green goes on to say "The musical, first seen on Broadway in 1990, opened ... in a ravishing revival directed by Michael Arden."
More: To learn more about the musical, visit broadway.com/shows/once-island.