On Friday, entertainer Klea Blackhurst is returning home after being away from Utah for nearly a decade. The energetic redhead will perform at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center to help raise money for the Department of Theatre’s scholarship fund.
“I got such a good education and really enjoyed my time [at the U], so this is my way of giving back and showing my appreciation,” Blackhurst said.
Blackhurst was born in Salt Lake City and because her mother was also an actress in Utah, she spent a lot of time watching rehearsals at Kingsbury Hall and Pioneer Theatre. With the help of a departmental scholarship and through her own hard work, Blackhurst obtained a degree in musical theater. After graduating from the U, she moved to New York to pursue her passion for entertaining.
Unfortunately, the acting scene in New York proved difficult to break into. Although she was cast in a handful of roles, Blackhurst had to take a few supplementary jobs in order to make ends meet. Finally, about 13 years ago, frustrated with the meager amount of roles available for actors, she wrote her own show and cast herself as the lead.
Blackhurst’s show, “Everything the Traffic Will Allow: the Songs and Sass of Ethel Merman,” honors Broadway legend of the same name. The show, which debuted in New York City in 2001, went on to win various titles and awards. Blackhurst’s powerful vocals and pleasant humor mesmerized audiences, and the show’s positive feedback allowed her to go on tour.
“I definitely love being in musicals with other people. That’s my first love. I really love actually exchanging energy with an audience,” Blackhurst said.
After her first breakthrough, Blackhurst continued to write and star in shows that honored reputable artists from theater history. For example, her play “Autumn in New York: Vernon Duke’s Broadway” recognized well-known composer Vernon Duke, and she teamed up with fellow performer Billy Stritch to create “Dreaming of a Song: The Music of Hoagy Carmichael.” These showcases established Blackhurst’s reputation as a colorful personality with a commanding set of pipes.
For her concert in Salt Lake City, Blackhurst will be singing and sharing anecdotes and jokes. She is excited to perform the song “The Yodeling Muchacha.”
“It always makes people smile and laugh,” she said. “I’m trying to really tailor [the concert] to returning to Salt Lake City. It’s definitely a mishmash of things, but it should be really fun. I just love making people laugh.”