Star of the Week: Celia Keenan-Bolger exudes dedication and dazzles in her many roles

Celia Keenan-Bolger

Celia Keenan-Bolger

Ever wonder if there’s a role that Celia Keenan-Bolger can’t play?

Celia is proving on a daily basis that to succeed in the Broadway industry, dedication, passion, and kindness are necessary qualities. Over the course of her career, she has been able to originate thrilling roles and revive classic ones in some of the most iconic performances of a lifetime. She has carried herself through the industry with poise, and inspires her audiences to new levels with each of her performances.

After graduating from the University of Michigan, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee put Celia on the map. In her Broadway debut, her portrayal of Olive Ostrovsky filled the theater laughter and broken hearts. She even scooped up a Tony Award nomination along the way. One of the highlights of the musical was the “I Love You Song;” a trio between Olive and her parents.

In Celia’s next Broadway endeavor, she pursued a role that was close to her heart since she was quite young. In the 2006 revival of Les Miserables, she played the role of Eponine. Celia revealed in an interview with broadway.com that when she was younger, one of her most prized possessions was a sweater she owned with the Les Miserables logo on it.

Although this production didn’t run for as long as it should have, Celia’s portrayal of Eponine is still remembered to this day. Theatre-goers have noted that Celia’s performance is the most accurate representation of Victor Hugo’s character in the novel that started it all. Instead of playing Eponine as meek and lovesick, she gave her a bit of  a quirky edge. At the time, this was relatively different, and opened doors of new character portrayals in various productions of Les Miserables.

In a dazzling play infused with fairytale magic and a dash of music, Celia simply amazed in Peter and the Starcatcher. She played a child for the second time on Broadway, this time by the name of Molly Aster. As a natural leader with a wise-beyond-her-years attitude, Molly was adored by children and adult audiences alike. Her performance earned her a second Tony nomination.

The same year, her brother Andrew Keenan-Bolger was starring in Newsies. This was the first time they had appeared on Broadway together during the same season. It was a huge year for both shows; Newsies received several Tony nominations and wins as well, and both shows have continued to run. Newsies is still on Broadway while Peter and the Starcatcher has moved to New World Stages.

Celia moved on to her brilliant portrayal of Mary in Merrily We Roll Along. This Encores! production was set for a limited run, which ironically (and sadly) enough was about the same length as the original Broadway production. An all-star cast featuring Lin Manuel-Miranda, Colin Donnell, and Betsy Wolfe gave this under-appreciated musical a second chance to shine. Celia’s tear-jerking rendition of “Like It Was” can be cherished on the cast recording for many days to come.

Nowadays, Celia can be found at the Booth Theatre in the John Tiffany-helmed production of The Glass Menagerie. Ben Brantley said of Celia’s performance, “Laura has never seemed more mortally fragile…Yet Ms. Keenan-Bolger endows her with a feral stubbornness within the shyness, like an animal burrowed in a safe lair who knows that it’s dangerous outside. When Laura timidly ventures out of that burrow, to make fleeting contact with the long-awaited gentleman caller, her worst instincts are confirmed, though only after an exquisite interlude of shimmering hopefulness.”

As Celia continues to shimmer in this highly-acclaimed production (and, so far, the biggest smash of the season) it would appear that she is where she belongs. In an interview with Broadway’s Best Shows, she beamed and stated, “One of the greatest lines ever written for the American theatre is one of the first lines of Tom’s where he says, ‘The long delayed but always expected something that we live for.’ And I actually feel that about this experience. I’ve been waiting for something like this, and it didn’t happen until I was a little older but, oh my gosh, is it worth the wait.”

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