Header imageKellie Johnson  
Actor, Singer Extraordinaire  
 
 

My Bio

Kellie Johnson, Up Close and Personal

Kellie Johnson is a huge talent.  She has proven herself again and again with powerful performances in plays, musicals and more recently in her amazing concert: Kellie Johnson One Night Only!  But this is only the tip of the iceberg it seems.  She has unceasing enthusiasm for the work she has done and even more for her upcoming projects.  I recently sat down with Kellie to find out where she gets this endless fountain of energy and creativity.

When did you start performing?

My mother said I started performing the minute I was born.  There’s a picture of me as a tiny baby, after I’ve been cleaned and wrapped in a little blanket and my mouth is wide open like I’m singing!  According to my mom, I was singing.  I remember around the age of four, I wanted to be a ballerina, so my parents enrolled me in a ballet class.  After the first dance concert they came up to me and said, ‘Is there anything else you want to do?’ 

So they weren’t impressed?

I looked good in the tutu, but they certainly didn’t see me becoming a great dancer.

You danced a bit in Kellie Johnson One Night Only!

My feet aren’t as dyslexic as when I was four years old.

What did you tell your parents you wanted to do instead?

I said, ‘I want to play the piano!’  Their eyes bulged out of their heads because we couldn’t really afford a piano.  They were probably thinking it would’ve been cheaper to keep me dancing.  But I started piano lessons right after and I’ve been a classical pianist ever since.

So, you started as a pianist.  When did you know you wanted to act?

I always wanted to act, but it wasn’t until junior high and high school that I really got involved with drama classes, plays and choir.  My first audition in high school I was cast as the seamstress.  I can’t remember the play I auditioned for, but I certainly didn’t remember any of the roles having the name, seamstress.  I went to the director of the play and asked, "who is the seamstress?  Is it a funny role?"

How was your sewing?

Well, on opening night, one actor had to go onstage with one pant leg hemmed about 10 inches higher than the other pant leg.

Whoops.

Yeah, I wasn’t a very good seamstress.  I was eventually cast in many leading roles in high school and also became involved in the National Forensics Speech League.  I won the Little Districts in the State of Ohio for my Humorous Interpretation of The Texas Trilogy, by Preston Jones, which took me to the National Forensic League National Tournament held in San Antonio, Texas.  I was in competition with thousands of other NFL qualifiers all across the country and in 1984 I won third place in the Nation for the NFL.

And after high school?

The summer before I went to college, I was discovered by Keith Prentice, a famous Hollywood and New York actor, director and producer after he saw me perform the role of "Maria Von Trapp" in The Sound Of Music. 

He was in Boys in the Band and Dark Shadows, right?

Yes. He came back to his home in Dayton, Ohio to produce a new theater company called Theater Under The Stars.  He cast me as the lead, "Jenny Rumson," in Paint Your Wagon for the premiere production of the Theater Under The Stars.  It was a huge success!  He went on to cast me in several productions, again, reviving my role as "Maria Von Trapp" in The Sound Of Music and many Broadway Musical Revues.  Keith also starred on Broadway as "Rolf" in The Sound Of  Music with Mary Martin.

That was all in your teens?

Yes. But later, during college, I continued doing shows for Keith as well as playing “Marta” in Company and the role of the “Mistress” in Evita for The Dayton Playhouse.

You attended Wright State University, right?

Right.  I majored in Acting and graduated with a BFA.  Before I left college, a songwriter, Billy Ed Wheeler, along with Haila Stoddard, the famous Broadway actress and producer, wrote a little musical called, Bird On the Wing.  They cast me as the leading lady, “Lily Mae Ledford.”  The show was a huge success and I was awarded the Irene Ryan Nomination.

That’s how you met Chet Atkins.

Chet saw me in Bird On the Wing and decided to bring me to Nashville.  He put me up in the apartment on the top floor of RCA Studios and he taught me to play the guitar and hired me as a demo recording artist.  While living in Nashville, I auditioned for Brenda Lee.  She hired me as a backup singer for her show, The Spirit of America, which played at the Roy Acuff Theater at Opryland USA.  While doing the Brenda Lee show I branched out on my own and performed as a solo guest artist on The General Jackson and performed on WSM Live with the famous WSM emcee, Charlie Douglas.

What happened after Nashville?

I began working as a singer, dancer, actress in a production company with PGT Entertainment on cruise ships.  I quickly branched out of the production company, developed my own one woman concert and toured nationally and internationally on cruise ships all over the world.

And then you came back to land.

I lived on the West Coast for a while and honed my skills as a musical theater actress playing leading lady roles such as "Mabel" in The Pirates of Penzance, "Josephine" in
HMS Pinafore and "Molly Brown" in The Unsinkable Molly Brown for The Musical Theater Company.  In non-musical theater productions I played "Laurel" in Torch Song Trilogy for Triangle Productions, "Sylvie" in El Paso Blue for Miracle Theatre and played "Amelia" in The Comedy Of Errors for the Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company. 

Sounds like you did a bit of everything.

I love it all.  Musicals are great, but I also love sinking my teeth into a great dramatic part as well. 

You received a few awards for your performances on the West Coast.

I was awarded the Drama Critic Award for Best Actress in a Musical for my performance of "Mrs. Johnstone" in Blood Brothers and another for my performance in Forbidden Broadway.

And then it was time to move to New York.

The time had come.

How has it been so far?

Living in New York for the past four years has been amazing!  I landed the leading lady role of "Jackie Cochran" in Karen Sunde’s play, The Fastest Woman Alive, which played Off-Broadway to fantastic reviews on Theater Row and has given me the honor of having my name published by the Dramatic Publishing Company as the New York actress playing the role of "Jackie Cochran" in The Fastest Woman Alive.   I have had the honor of playing other leading lady roles Off-Broadway for the NYC Theatre 54, the NYC Theatre Studio and New York City’s, Frank Skillern’s Cabaret Theater.

And of course your one woman concert, Kellie Johnson One Night Only!  How did that come about?

I booked the role of "Annie Oakley" in Annie Get Your Gun in 2005 for the TriArts Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Connecticut.  After playing "Annie Oakley" and receiving rave reviews for my performance, the producers brought me back for a concert performance.  The show played to a huge crowd and had three standing ovations!  I was thrilled.  It was a huge success!  The audience was amazing!  They were so lovely!  I could’ve kept singing all night long!

I know, I was there.  It was an evening I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  Thank you.

Thank you.