Broadway and Symphony Star Capathia Jenkins. I love this line from her bio that says “This woman who grappling with two dueling passions each with a strong grip: acting and music, yet she refuses to pick one because they both represent her soul. Capathia approaches a song the same way she approaches a script, like an artist. She looks for the nuances, the secret hidden within the notes or text. She seeks the melody, harmony, and rhythm. She asks herself: what am I trying to say? What do I want my audience to experience with me? She wants to take her audience on a journey.”
Hello and welcome to episode 27 of Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive!
Today we have Broadway and Symphony Star Capathia Jenkins. I love this line from her bio that says “This woman who grappling with two dueling passions each with a strong grip: acting and music, yet she refuses to pick one because they both represent her soul. Capathia approaches a song the same way she approaches a script, like an artist. She looks for the nuances, the secret hidden within the notes or text. She seeks the melody, harmony, and rhythm. She asks herself: what am I trying to say? What do I want my audience to experience with me? She wants to take her audience on a journey.
Her Broadway theatre credits include Newsies, The Civil War, The Look of Love, Caroline, Or Change and Martin Short-Fame Becomes Me.
Her Television credits include 30 Rock, the Practice, Law & Order SVU, the Sopranos, Law & Order. She can be seen in the film ‘Musical Chairs’ and heard on the film soundtracks of Nine, Chicago, and Legally Blonde 2.
An active concert artist, she has appeared with orchestras around the world including the Toronto Symphony where she is a featured performer in James Bond: The Music Oct 15th and 16th. Next, she performs a tribute to Aretha Franklin with various orchestras across the US.
I hope that you enjoy it, she has a lot of great advice for up and coming performers.
Diane Foy 0:00
Welcome to the show.
Capathia Jenkins 0:01
Thank you for having me.
Diane Foy 0:04
Yeah. So what have been some of the highlights of your performing career?
Capathia Jenkins 0:08
Oh, gosh, I would have to say probably my Broadway career, I have been fortunate and blessed enough to originate five characters in five different Broadway shows.
Diane Foy 0:27
Capathia Jenkins 0:28
So that, you know, that is like, you know, so amazing. Because when you think about the odds, right of you, like really living out your dream, and then living it five times is like crazy.
Diane Foy 0:45
Capathia Jenkins 0:46
So that has been a real highlight. And also, in the symphony world, doing concerts. You know, I have been singing with Symphony now for about 10 years all over the world. And there are quite a few highlights from that part of my career, namely, you know, singing at the Kennedy Center, more than once, and Carnegie Hall more than once. You know, I always say to my friends and colleagues that it is so nice to get invited to these amazing stages. But I think the sweet spot is to get invited back over and over. So that has always a sort of a feather in my cap. And I just, I always feel so good when people ask me to come back. So that I mean, that is sort of a quick answer.
Diane Foy 1:51
Yeah. Well, that is amazing such legendary venues.
Capathia Jenkins 1:55
Absolutely. And you can feel, you know, I remember my first time or the first couple of times at Carnegie Hall, and, you know, in the dressing rooms, they have photos, and sometimes signed photos of very famous people. And so I sat in my dressing room, I think I was in the Leontyne Price room in Carnegie Hall, and just sort of like, you know, just this side of tears rolling down my face thinking, wow, you know, all these people that have come through here, and, and now I get to sort of add my name to the list and stand on their shoulders. And so it just really is an honor. It is an honor.
Diane Foy 2:43
Wow, that is amazing. So what first drew you to performing when you were young?
Capathia Jenkins 2:49
You know, I think the time before I could even talk, I was, you know, singing with a hairbrush in the mirror. There was always music in my home. There were seven siblings, and I am somewhere in the middle. So yeah, so I am somewhere in the middle. So my older siblings always had music playing like, you know, Motown and Earth, Wind and Fire and in my mom, listen to lots of gospel music, we were always in church. And so I just had been singing, it seems forever since before I could talk. But I knew very early on that singing is what I wanted to do. I did not know that I wanted to do Broadway and theater, and all of that until I got much older. But I always knew I wanted to sing. I just really enjoyed it. And then when I started to train, classically to sing, you know, I was just so intrigued by, first of all, how difficult singing really is to learn the craft of it, and the art of it. But I was so intrigued by how you could grab a microphone and get up in front of people, and take them on a ride, take them on a journey. And so and I was aware of that very early, but I was so young, I must have been, I think third grade, when I had my first solo in the Christmas concert for the chorus, and it was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. And I had.
Diane Foy 4:38
And that was the classic moment.
Capathia Jenkins 4:40
Oh, my gosh, I was so excited. And you know, but right at the time of my solo. They had these kids dressed as reindeer sort of throwing candy canes in the audience. So no one was really listening to me.
Diane Foy 5:00
Capathia Jenkins 5:00
Completely upstaged by the moment, but I still love you know, having a solo.
Diane Foy 5:08
Yeah. And you went to a performing arts school? The famous one?
Capathia Jenkins 5:13
I did. I went to the High School of Music and Art in New York City. Yeah.
Diane Foy 5:17
Right, and what was that like? Did you take like, all the, like dancing, acting everything? Or do you specialize in a school like that?
Capathia Jenkins 5:25
Well, you specialize in a school like that. And at the time now, that school is called LaGuardia high school, they merged the High School of Music and Art, which was my school where we specialized in the voice, musical instruments and fine art. And then the other school, which was called Performing Arts, which was downtown, specialized in dancing and acting mostly. And those two schools merged and became LaGuardia, the year after I graduated from high school. So my focus was all singing, it was all classical training. So, you know, you start with the Italian arias and German and French and, but we also had a great gospel chorus, that I was able to be a part of, for three years of my high school experience. So yeah, it was all all about the voice in training your instrument.
Diane Foy 6:36
Right. And when you finish school, what was some of the first things you did? Are you kind of at a loss of like, Oh, now I gotta try and make a living at this.
Capathia Jenkins 6:45
Well, I, you know, I went to Temple University for a jazz program, jazz vocal performance. And while there, it was great, because I had professors who were actually gigging on the weekends, and so I could go and watch them and hear them. And two years into Temple University, I got so antsy I want it to work. And so I left school and my first professional job was with a company called Greg Thompson productions, and it was at a resort in Bermuda. And there were three girls that they were hiring to play Aretha, Dion and Gladys Knight. And I got to play Aretha. In this this show. It was a musical review of those three artists music, and we did a review for I think my first contract was nine months in Bermuda.
Diane Foy 7:52
Capathia Jenkins 7:53
Diane Foy 7:55
And then, how long between that and your first Broadway show? And what are the kind of what is the journey like in those years?
Capathia Jenkins 8:05
Well, the journey is interesting. You know, when I started to work for Greg Thompson productions, it was great because one contract would be ending and he would say to me, do you want to go to Lake Tahoe and do a show? Do you want to go to Miami and do a show like all over you know? And I was like, Yes, I want to go, I want to go. And then that was I think that was Oh, gosh, I can never remember years.
Diane Foy 8:32
Capathia Jenkins 8:32
But I think that was somewhere around. Or somewhere in the 90s where I said, I want to, I feel like I could do this forever. But if I do not stop and go back home to New York and start to audition for Broadway and Off-Broadway, I might not ever do it, you know, and I knew that that was something I wanted to try. So I left that sort of resort circuit.
Diane Foy 9:06
Capathia Jenkins 9:07
And came back home and the first theater things I started to get were still tours. I did a European tour above bubbling brown sugar for a year. I did tours of Dream Girls bus and truck. I did Ain’t Misbehavin’ in summer stock, regional theater. And then finally, my first Broadway show came in 1999. I did. Frank Wildhorn, The Civil War. That was my first Broadway show. And so it was a long road. It was a long road. I think the first time I got my equity card I think I was doing Ain’t Misbehavin’, like the gateway Playhouse in Long Island.
Diane Foy 10:09
Capathia Jenkins 10:10
Yeah. So those, you know, those touring years and summer stock and regional theater, that work was all beneficial. Just in learning how to navigate and move through the theater world, it was so beneficial for me. You know, the hours are staggering, right? It is eight hour days of rehearsals and doing your homework and making sure you are off-book when it is time to start staging. And just all of it, you know, it just such a great training ground. If you know that that is what you want to do professionally, I would say do as much of that as you can before you try your hand at Broadway and and you know, the big leagues.
Diane Foy 11:07
Right. Yeah, it is great training ground. Yeah.
Capathia Jenkins 11:10
Diane Foy 11:11
And so your Broadway years, so what are some of the shows that you did on Broadway? And you think you were saying that you actually got to help originate and create a role? Or you were just the first person to play it? How did that work?
Capathia Jenkins 11:29
Well, actually creating and yeah, creating is sort of like from what, here is the journey of a Broadway show, right? So let us take one of my shows Caroline, or Change with Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner, George Sea Wolf directing. So that started with an audition at the Public Theater, which is downtown Off-Broadway here in New York, for a reading of a new musical. And I get the I booked the show, I am playing the Washing Machine. And for those first for those six weeks, we sit around the table, we read the play, we start to put it on its feet, we finish that, we go away. For a few months, we come back now we are going to do the second act. And during that time, Jeanine Tesori said to me, when I went away, I was writing the second act with your voices in mind, right? So you are already at the stage where you are creating this character from the beginning.
Diane Foy 12:57
Capathia Jenkins 12:57
And so then you come back, you do this second act, then you go away, then you come back and do a workshop. So all of this stuff by the time you get to Broadway, maybe two, three years. And in some instances, five, six years have gone by, by the time you get to Broadway. So that is what I mean about originating a role.
Diane Foy 13:18
Right. Okay, cool. So what are some of the biggest lessons that you have learned along the way about being a performer? And also connecting with an audience?
Capathia Jenkins 13:31
Oh, I think I think the biggest thing I have learned about being a performer and connecting with an audience is probably the same answer. But I will tell you this quick story about my Broadway debut, The Civil War. I remember waiting in the hallway for my callback. And they had given me music to sing from the show to learn from the show. And every girl that went in before me was belting, belting the song out. And I had said to myself, I want to, I think I want to sing this small, I want to sing it. I just want to focus on the lyrics. And I really want to dig into this melody, but I do not think it is full voice. I think it is something else. I think it is more nuanced, right?
Diane Foy 14:28
Capathia Jenkins 14:29
But every girl that was going in was belting it out. And so I am sitting in the hallway thinking well should I be belting it up, am I wrong? Should I be?
Diane Foy 14:37
Capathia Jenkins 14:38
You know what, oh, my God, I am nervous. Oh, geez. And so I get in the room. And just as I am going to start, I take a breath. And I say to myself, just trust it, trust your instincts, and just go for it. And I did it. And I remember to this day, and I subsequently told him this us a few years ago, Frank Wild one of the composers said, That was delicious. And I was like, Oh my god, you know, I will never forget that. And so for me, I always tell young people, always trust your instincts. They are good. your instincts are good.
Diane Foy 15:16
Capathia Jenkins 15:17
And if you are in the room, and you trust your instincts, and the director gives you a different direction, that is okay, then go with that. But always trust that what you think and what you feel is right, take a bold stance, and just go for it. And I think also, that is my answer for connecting with an audience as well.
Diane Foy 15:41
Capathia Jenkins 15:42
I always lead from the lyric, I think the lyric is the most powerful thing we have as singers. And so I lead with the lyric, I get inside of a lyric. So I can tell the story, because I understand the story. And then hopefully, you come along with me on the journey. So for me, I think my whole career has been about trusting my instincts. Yeah.
Diane Foy 16:10
Right. Yeah. And you had a lot of music training. Did you have acting training?
Capathia Jenkins 16:19
You know, I did, I did a few sort of acting classes. And this is after I started working professionally in musicals. I took a few classes here in New York, just to sort of understand, you know, am I on the right track with acting? Or am I up here, just faking it, you know, so, I just put myself in a room in a few rooms with other actors. And some of those classes were on camera because, at the time, I was auditioning for commercials as well and TV and film. And so I did some on-camera classes, as well as just being in a room with other actors doing scene work, you know, playing theater games, just sort of honing in on how you actually get inside of a scene and work with other actors in the room. And, and all of that. So, yeah, I did that later, though. I did not do that in school, you know, college.
Diane Foy 17:30
Right. Okay. And so you have done a lot of acting on TV shows? Was that something that you have just kind of always done here and there? Or did you make a concentrated effort to do television?
Capathia Jenkins 17:44
You know, I started out doing it sort of here and there. And, you know, when you are a New York actor, who sings, you can pretty much craft out a career for yourself, right? So you and you, if you have a good agent, you try to do everything, you try to do musicals, you do straight plays, you try to do TV and film when that is not popping for you, you try to get some commercials. When that is not working, maybe you go sing backup for somebody and do some live shows. I mean, you try to just do all of it. So it started out as here and there. And then I had booked a recurring character on a show called The Practice, went out to LA and did those episodes and felt really good about what I was doing on camera. And then I said, we should make a conscious effort around this. And so for me, that means starting to say no to things, just because, I find that. And this is, this is just a note I have for your listeners who are aspiring, I find that when you are in a career like this, the only thing that moves you forward is the power of no. So if I say yes to every single thing that comes down the pike, and you have got to God knows, you are hoping that the phone is ringing, right?
Diane Foy 19:30
Capathia Jenkins 19:30
But if you say yes to everything, you can find yourself doing the same thing over and over. Right?
Diane Foy 19:36
Capathia Jenkins 19:37
And you know that you are already good at that. So for me, it was about saying no to the same thing over and over. I am sorry there is a fire truck rolling through my neighborhood in New York, Brooklyn.
Diane Foy 19:53
That sounds like New York.
Capathia Jenkins 19:57
But you can find yourself doing the same thing over and over again. Right. So I had done so many different productions of Ain’t Misbehavin’, and I did Dream Girls, and I, you know, it was like, if I do not start to say no to these things, how do I then move myself forward? It is not like when you are in the corporate world, and you have some seniority, you have been working at this job for 10 years.
Diane Foy 20:21
Capathia Jenkins 20:21
And they give you a promotion, like, no one knows you, or promotion, you have to carve it out for yourself. And so it is a scary thing, to begin to say no, but you get better at it as you go. Right. And so I just, you know, I began to say no to things that I had already done. So I had already done shows, TV shows where I had done like, one scene, you know, or you know, just like one line or, or whatever. So, my hat is off to two actors who, who do that, because that is an art and a discipline as well. But for me, I said to my agent, you know, we have to hold out for more. And I know when I say I am holding out for more, you know, my phone is gonna ring few and far between.
Diane Foy 20:35
Capathia Jenkins 21:15
I have a different look, you know, and way about me and but when those opportunities come up. You know, I throw my hat in the ring, I prepare, prepare my scenes, and I go in, and sometimes I get it, and sometimes I do not. And sometimes we are competing with, you know, household names.
You know what I mean. And so I just want to do the best work I can do in the room and then just leave it there. And hopefully, it is all stepping stones to the next thing.
Diane Foy 21:39
Yeah, yeah. And now you do a lot of performing concerts with Symphonies. And you are coming to Toronto to perform with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for James Bond, the music.
Capathia Jenkins 22:04
Diane Foy 22:05
What is your favorite Bond song to sing?
Capathia Jenkins 22:07
Oh, my gosh, good, Lord. You know, they are also good. I have to say, you know, it is so funny. I do not know. I mean, I think probably the most iconic one that I saying is probably “Diamonds Are Forever.” That great Shirley Bassey vocal is like iconic. Probably the most recent is “Sky Fall,” Adele.
Diane Foy 22:36
Capathia Jenkins 22:37
And you know, the great thing about these Bond songs and these Bond orchestrations is, they all have a certain feeling about them a certain harmonics within them that make them all quintessentially bond. And so I mean, I, you know, I love performing with the Toronto Symphony. It is a great symphony, and I think this will probably be my second or third time with this show in Toronto.
Diane Foy 23:06
Capathia Jenkins 23:06
So I am excited to come back there and do it again. It is going to be fun.
Diane Foy 23:11
Yeah. Cool. I am going to come on Tuesday.
Capathia Jenkins 23:14
Oh, good. And hopefully, I can meet you.
Diane Foy 23:17
Capathia Jenkins 23:18
I would love to.
Diane Foy 23:19
So you are also doing Aretha Franklin tributes, with is that with symphonies as well?
Capathia Jenkins 23:25
It is. We premiered that show in July with the Cleveland Orchestra at their outdoor, the outdoor stage, the block blossom, which is beautiful and iconic. And yeah, the Aretha Show. I really love doing it, you know, when she passed on, it was really a dark time, I think for those of us who grew up, you know, listening to her and trying to emulate her. And, you know, she was the queen of soul and is the queen of soul. And was for so many years.
Diane Foy 24:10
Capathia Jenkins 24:10
You know, it is like, you just you always think that she is going to be there. And so, I mentioned earlier about standing on the shoulders of great, great ones that have gone before us. And she is absolutely one of those people. And you say her name and people just you know, they start to talk about their favorite song or?
Diane Foy 24:35
Capathia Jenkins 24:36
Oh, Aretha, we love her. And so, you know, that show is near and dear to my heart. You know, and I hope that when we do that show that the audience has moved in. And that they, you know, feel good Aretha’s music feels good. It is soul music. And so yeah, it is really exciting to be doing that show. We are doing that a lot now, too. It is great.
Diane Foy 25:07
Oh, cool. And so, and you also have some recordings, I saw that you did an album of Maya Angelou songs?
Capathia Jenkins 25:14
Yes. Phenomenal Woman, the Maya Angelou songs with my writing partner, Louis Rosen. And when I say writing partner, he is the composer and I am the muse.
Diane Foy 25:27
Capathia Jenkins 25:28
But yeah, that recording came out last October about a year ago. And we were really excited. It was a long time in the making. Those very iconic poems that people know and love of Maya’s you know, and now set to music and we could not be more proud of this project. I am really excited. And if your listeners want to hear it, they can find it everywhere digitally, you know, on iTunes and Amazon and all of that.
Diane Foy 26:04
Capathia Jenkins 26:04
So I hope that they will check it out. And they can also go to my website capathiajenkins.com and they can find the video for Phenomenal Woman “Song for CJ,” which is the title track. There is a video for that song on my YouTube page as well. So yeah, I am really proud of that project.
Diane Foy 26:27
Great, fantastic. Is there a dream role that you have not played yet?
Capathia Jenkins 26:30
Whoo. you know, someone else, some other interviewer asked me that question a few years ago, and my answer is still the same. I hope that there is a composer and a writer, writing it right now.
Diane Foy 26:50
Capathia Jenkins 26:51
Diane Foy 26:51
Capathia Jenkins 26:52
Yeah. I just hope that there are because it is I although I love so many shows and so many characters. I want to do something new.
Diane Foy 27:04
Yeah, a new challenge anew.
Capathia Jenkins 27:06
Diane Foy 27:07
Be able to be one of the first ones to bring it to the world maybe too.
Capathia Jenkins 27:11
Exactly. That is exactly right. Yes.
Very cool. And my final question, what is your why? Why do you do what you do?
Boy, that is good. My why I do it because it is the thing that lights me up from the inside. It lights me up from the inside. I often say that I am the most joyous and authentically myself when I am on stage.
Diane Foy 27:54
Yeah, that is amazing.
Capathia Jenkins 27:57
Diane Foy 27:59
Thank you so so much for your time, and I am looking forward to the show on Tuesday.
Capathia Jenkins 28:04
It was a joy speaking with you, Diane.
Diane Foy 28:06
Capathia Jenkins 28:06
I will look forward to meeting you soon.
Diane Foy 28:09
Okay, great. Thank you so much.
It was so great chatting with Capathia and I am looking forward to seeing the show on Tue. If you are in Toronto check out tso.ca for all the upcoming concerts. For links and transcript for this show visit singdanceactthrive.com/027
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