Written By: Krista Graham
Kailee Ann Graham: From CAPA to TheatreWorks USA National Tour!
Kailee Ann Graham was born to Rhonda and Gregory Graham of Carrick, right here in our local Pittsburgh. From the age of three taking dance class at local studios, and watching musicals with her family, it was clear that she had the talent for future stardom.
“I watched the Annie movie nonstop growing up, and would perform for my mom around the house all the time. My mom claims that my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Anderson overheard me singing “REFLECTION” from Mulan, when I was supposed to be napping, and that’s when she knew. I never liked naptime!”
But something happened between naptime and now. Kailee Ann describes the moment she knew she wanted to be an actor:
“In high school, at CAPA, I knew I wanted to be a professional actor. I enjoyed the rehearsal process so much, I loved acting and dance class and performing in the All School Musical each year was the icing on top of the cake. Ms. Stabler and Ms. Lybarger talked about the business all of the time and I was always so inspired by their stories about New York, and I knew that was the place I wanted to end up.”
What had started as a talent, combined with her CAPA (The Creative and Performing Arts high school) and later at Rider University, Kailee Ann displayed the courage, know how, and drive to become a successful triple threat performer.
Life post-high school, let alone life in New York can be difficult; but Kailee Ann has been able to navigate the city and her burgeoning career with finesse. She credits CAPA for her success.
“I credit ALL of my training and success to CAPA. Professionalism, Acting 101, theatre etiquette. Ms. Jane Tinker coached my audition songs and helped me select college rep. Mr. Cabot coached my monologues. Ms. Stabler held mock auditions for us. I was selected to attend Rider’s Musical Theater Camp back in 2010, thanks to Elsie Hillman’s endowment and Ms. Stabler for selecting me, so I had already gotten to know Rider, a little. I got to train with NEW teachers and directors. It was such a pinnacle experience for me, and it was the first time I got to see a show on Broadway.”
Armed with her spectacular CAPA education and the scholarship from Elsie Hillman, Kailee packed her bags and headed to Rider University; first for the musical theatre camp, and again to begin her college career. At Rider, Ms. Graham had some major Broadway moments.
While at college, Kailee Ann had the opportunity to sing for Frank Wildhorn, a famous composer. He remarked to her with a twinkle in his eye after her performance “So, you’re a belter, huh?” acknowledging Kailee Ann’s specific Broadway style of singing, a proud moment for her.
While at Rider, Kailee Ann also met Cathy Trien who she describes as “My mentor, voice teacher and NYC Mama.” In such a fast-paced city, Cathy and her family provided Kailee additional training, friendship, and a home away from home; a point of grounding for a young woman poised to take on the world of musical theatre, as well as part of Graham who still may be the family oriented girl from the South Hills of Pittsburgh.
Kailee Ann’s collegiate accomplishments continued. She performed in The Penelopiad. “The Penelopiad was the most beautiful and haunting show I have ever worked on!”
Directed by her college mentor, Trent Blanton, Kailee shined as “Mother” a part that friends still link her to, and a memory she cherishes.
But perhaps her biggest college accomplishment was performing at her senior recital, a concert of Graham’s best songs that she had worked on during her college career. There, she had a crowd of Pittsburgh supporters as well as classmates and friends.
“My family is the most supportive bunch of 31 people you will ever meet in your life. They all came to New Jersey to support me. It is something I will never forget.”
Kailee Ann is now succeeding in the hustle and bustle of the big city, but she does have a few things she misses about her hometown of Pittsburgh (besides her beloved ranch dressing.) “My Family! Thank GOD for Facetime and the Pittsburgh airport! I also miss my mentors at CAPA, but luckily I still keep in touch with my CAPA family. I visit when I’m home, and I get to join them on their annual trip to NYC.”
Living in New York provides its own sense of wonder and opportunity though. A trade off perhaps, but one that seems easy to someone with the strength of Graham’s drive.
She says her favorite part of living in New York City is “all of the ridiculously talented people I have met, from actors, to music directors, to voice teachers. I take voice lessons in the West Village at the famous Judson Memorial Church, with my coach, who I met back in 2010 at Rider’s MT intensive.” Kailee Ann thanks Ms. Stabler of CAPA for sending her to Broadway Bootcamp, where she met her NYC vocal teacher.
“I have now been working with my coach for almost 8 years!! And he has become one of my dearest friends in the city.”
Singing is only one of Kailee Ann’s many talents. An Equity eligible performer, represented by Jaime Baker at Baker Management and Danny Prather of Hudson Artists Agency, Ms. Graham excels as a singer, dancer, and actor, but perhaps one of her biggest accomplishments is being bilingual.
In a world that needs more communication and understanding, Kailee Ann took her knowledge from her Spanish courses and Spanish speaking friends throughout her life. She gets to exercise that skill now, on stage of the national tour of “Skippy John Jones; Snow What?”
Ms. Graham humbly talks about her Spanish speaking. “Speaking another language is just another way to relate to people. It really helped with Nieve Que because she’s a Spanish Princess and I have so much fun speaking the little Spanish that I get to speak in the show. Exposure to new languages is so important for children.”
The TheatreWorks USA National Tour is an educational musical theatre show that happens to open right here in Pittsburgh. An opportunity for Graham to spend time with her Pittsburgh friends and family, as well as giving back to the children of Pittsburgh.
“Skippy John Jones; Snow What?” will travel to local schools after the grand opening at the Byham Theatre downtown.
Kailee Ann plays a swashbuckling puppy princess, a part where she can advocate for strong women and defying the status quo.
“My favorite part of the show is performing “Great Sword Fighter”, Skippy shows Nieve that she can be so much more than just a Princess. She learns to sword fight and learns that she doesn’t need a prince, she can take care of herself! I love that we are teaching children about defying gender norms and encouraging young girls to be independent and strong! #FEMINISM. It was also such a fun number to learn!
Graham goes on to say “Thank you TheatreWorks USA for producing this amazing show, I am so excited to share this show with my hometown, and thank you LOCAL. Hope to see you all in the audience!!”
To grab your seat in the audience either opening day on Sunday, January 7th, or during the rest of the run (through January 14th) you can visit TrustArts.org or the box office to purchase tickets. https://trustarts.org/production/53546/skippyjon-jones-snow-what