Updated: Sep 30, 2020
Kate Baldwin didn’t bring much with her when she moved from Chicago to Manhattan: just two duffel bags. Her dream was to pursue a career in theater. Fortunately she packed the right stuff — determination and talent.
“I temped. I auditioned. I lived off of Balance Bars and the money earned from the sale of my 1995 navy blue Saturn,” she said. “In the family Christmas card that year, my father referred to me as ‘jobless and homeless’ My dad has a fun sense of humor.”
But no one’s laughing now, unless, of course, they’re supposed to, because she’s playing a humorous role onstage. Her career has included several Broadway shows, with the recent revival of “Hello Dolly!” among them. Hailed as “the redheaded firecracker” by the New York Times, she was nominated for the 2017 Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her portrayal of Irene Molloy. She played opposite both Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters.
Baldwin will sing songs and share stories from her career when she appears at the Broadway Unplugged Series at ACT (A Contemporary Theatre) of Connecticut in Ridgefield on Saturday, July 20. She’ll be accompanied by pianist Bryan Perri, ACT’s music supervisor. Perri recently finished his five-year run as music director and conductor of Broadway’s “Wicked,” and is music director of the Broadway-bound “Jagged Little Pill,” opening this fall in New York.
According to Baldwin, the intimate Ridgefield show will include tunes that were written and/or arranged for her, and others that are songs she got to re-introduce to the world. “They belong to me and I belong to them: songs from ‘Finian’s Rainbow,’ ‘Big Fish,’ ‘Giant,’ ‘Hello Dolly!’ and ‘Superhero.’”
Sharing more via email, Baldwin said she’ll likely talk about growing up, moving to New York, and current projects. “I have a show I’ve done at 54 Below and in San Francisco, Indianapolis and Detroit, and will do in Milwaukee, Palm Springs and Key Largo in 2020. It’s called ‘How Did You Get This Number?’ This evening will be a different version of that show because Bryan will be asking the questions he wants to know about and guiding the evening. It’ll be warm and fun and informal!”
Baldwin has always enjoyed singing. She began studying voice seriously at 16. “That led to a love of musical theater which led to discovering classic plays and musicals in high school. I went to Northwestern University to study theater and have been lucky enough to build a career for the last 20 years.”
Although certainly successful, Baldwin (like all actors) has found some auditions go better than others. “Disappointment is dealt with in various ways,” she said. “My favorite way is ice cream. In my house (I’m married to another actor) we call it ‘secret actor medicine.’”
We asked Baldwin to share something readers might find interesting, surprising or funny about her experiences onstage in “Hello Dolly!” Here’s what she said:
“One night early in previews, we had to stop the show. I had just finished singing ‘Ribbons Down My Back’ and the curtain came down and an announcement was made. There was a man in the audience who had passed out. It was a literal, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ moment. Emergency medical personnel arrived and he was taken to the lobby. The man recovered almost immediately and actually returned to see the second act because he was determined not to miss any more of the show. But for a while backstage, we didn’t know what was going on. Bette turned to me and said, ‘Congratulations. You’ve killed your first audience member.’”