Q. So give us a thumbnail sketch: where were you born and raised?
A. I was born in Evanston, Illinois and lived there until I was 7 years old. Then we moved to Shorewood, Wisconsin and I went to a high school there with a fantastic drama program. I am still in touch with Barbara Gensler who ran it then and runs it now.
Q. What made you want to be a singer?
A. My parents tell a story about going away for a weekend when I was a little girl and leaving me and my brother with close family friends for the duration of their trip. When they returned, my parents’ friend said something to the effect of, “Kate is a singer.” I guess I sang constantly as a child. It never occurred to my parents that other children didn’t sing all the time until our family friend pointed it out.
Q. How did having grown up in Chicago shape you as a person? As an artist?
A. Both Chicago and Milwaukee are wonderful cities. There were plenty of opportunities to experience art in all its forms. As a child, I went to the symphony, ballet, opera and lots of theater and musical theater. I had terrific teachers in music, dance and drama who were encouraging, demanding and extremely influential in my young life. I was taught to take what I do very seriously and to treat it as a craft and a discipline.
Q. You’ve been in a number of Broadway shows, including “The Full Monty” and “Wonderful Town.” How does it feel to be starring in “Finian’s Rainbow”?
A. “Finian’s Rainbow” is my fourth Broadway show, but its my first time as a leading lady on Broadway. The experience has been like a dream from the start. We did the show last March as part of the Encores! series at City Center and were so excited by how well it was received. That the show transferred to Broadway six months later still seems too good to be true. The way the critics, audiences, and Broadway community have embraced our production makes me so grateful. I am lucky to get to do what I do.
Q. What went through your mind the first time you sang the classic song, “How Are Things in Glocca Morra”?
A. The first time I sang the song was about 10 years ago in Chicago when I did a production there and I honestly don’t remember what I thought and felt. I do remember the first time I sang the song on the stage of the St. James Theater. All I could think to myself was, “Don’t cry, keep it together.” There is something about that legendary house that gets me. Call it ghosts or superstition or whatever, but I feel a tremendous sense of history when I sing on that stage. And what more beautiful song could there be to sing than this one? Though Glocca Morra is a fictional place, I use Chicago as the place I’m singing about. I remember my friends and all the experiences I had there which have led me to where I am today.
Q. What’s the best part of this experience? Any drawbacks?
A. The best part of this experience is the group of people I get to work with every night. We’ve been able to preserve a sense of light-heartedness and to truly play with each other. I hope that the audiences can see that and know that the fun we’re having is quite genuine. The only drawback is how tired I am. All the time. Exhausted.
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Q. What are your favorite songs to sing in concert?
A. “I Can Cook Too”; “Vanilla Ice Cream”; “The Miller’s Son.”
Q. In the shower?
A. “You Are Love” (steam is good for high notes.)
Q. At 3 a.m. in a pub?
A. “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles
Q. What would we be surprised to learn about you?
A. I really like to swear. It is so satisfying. I don’t do it often, but when I do, it counts.
Q. Favorite form of relaxation?
Q. If you hadn’t been an actress, what career path might you have followed?
A. I would do something with food. Probably write about it.
Q. If you could do one thing in your life over again, what would it be?
A. I would’ve played a sport in high school.
Q. Funniest or most surreal celebrity encounter / incident?
A. A close friend thinks I have a strong resemblance to Laura Linney. So my husband and I were having breakfast at Good Enough to Eat on the Upper West Side one morning, and she was there, having the oatmeal. We texted our friend who was certain that a matter/anti-matter type reaction was bound to occur and blamed us prematurely for blowing up his favorite restaurant. Needless to say, the place is still standing. (I recommend the Gramercy Omelet, Laura.)
Q. How many songs do you have on your iPod / in your music library? What cheesy one-hit wonder would I be surprised to find there?
A. I have 673 on my iPhone. Over a thousand in the music library. “Groove is in the Heart,” by Deee-lite.
Q. Favorite film? Book? Food? Drink?
A. Any of these films make the day better: “The Princess Bride”; “Annie Hall”; “Ratatouille.” Recently: “The Book Thief”; “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.” Drink: Manhattan on the rocks, no fruit.
Q. What inspires you?
A. Kindness and openness. The ability to tell a good joke.
Q. One thing you never leave home without?
A. My keys.
Q. Advice for someone contemplating a career in show business?
A. Say yes to everything. Rely on your friends, because they will be there whether or not you book the job. Do more and go further than you think you can.
Q. Best advice anyone ever gave you?
A. Get a life. The career comes later. And always wear good shoes.
Q. Of what personal accomplishment are you most proud?
A. My husband, Graham Rowat, and I own our apartment in Manhattan. It is not an easy feat for a pair of Broadway actors to succeed with an ornery co-op board, but we played the part of responsible homeowners very well.
Finian’s Rainbow is currently playing an open-ended run at Broadway’s St. James Theater, 246 W. 44th St., NYC. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com.