Theater Notebook: Broadway vet Chilina Kennedy to star as Billie Jean King in La Jolla Playhouse’s ‘Love All’

Billie Jean King, left, and Chilina Kennedy.
Chilina Kennedy, right, will play tennis legend Billie Jean King, left, in La Jolla Playhouse’s upcoming world premiere play “Love All.”
(Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

Also this week, North Coast Repertory Theatre announces 2023-24 season and New Village Arts planning documentary on actors with special needs


Chilina Kennedy, who played the title role in the Broadway production of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” for 1,200 performances, will portray another iconic American star this summer in La Jolla.

Kennedy will play tennis icon Billie Jean King in the world premiere of Anna Deavere Smith’s play “Love All” at the La Jolla Playhouse. The production will run June 3 through July 2. The play depicts the rise of King in the sport despite rampant sexism and homophobia during the tumultuous 1960s and ‘70s.

The play’s director, Marc Bruni, also directed the Broadway production of “Beautiful,” where Kennedy was a replacement for the Carole King role for four- to 14-month stretches from 2015 to 2019.

Kennedy also originated the role of Mary Magdalene in Des McAnuff’s Broadway revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (which had a pre-Broadway tryout at La Jolla Playhouse in 2011). And last year, she played Annie Lewis in the short-lived Broadway production of “Paradise Square.”

Joining Kennedy in the cast are John Kroft as Billie Jean’s husband Larry King; Kate Rockwell as her onetime lover, Marilyn Barnett; San Diego’s Allison Spratt Pearce as 1960s-’70s tennis star Margaret Court; Justin Withers as Arthur Ashe; Rebecca S’Manga Frank as Althea Gibson; and more.

Tickets are now on sale at

Artistic Director David Ellenstein has been with North Coast Rep since 2003.
(Aaron Rumley)

North Coast Rep ‘23-’24 season unveiled

North Coast Repertory Theatre has announced its 42nd season, which will feature two world premieres, a classic musical, comedies, a thriller and more. Two of the season’s productions will travel to Laguna Playhouse after they play in Solana Beach, where North Coast’s longtime artistic director, David Ellenstein, has been filling in as acting interim artistic director while a search for a new leader is under way.

Season subscriptions are now on sale at Here’s the lineup:

“The Angel Next Door” by Paul Slade Smith: This world premiere comedy is an adaptation of Ferenc Molnar’s classic French farce “Play at the Castle,” the story of a playwright desperately trying to preserve his nephew’s engagement to a woman heard flirting with a male actor. Smith is the author of past NCR shows “The Outsider” and “Unnecessary Farce.” Ellenstein will direct the show that will move to Laguna Playhouse after its run here. Sept. 6-Oct. 1.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher: Hatcher’s 2008 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 Gothic novella — about a Victorian-era doctor attempting to discover and cure that evil that lies within men — uses four actors to play the role of Hyde, the dark alter-ego of the ambitious doctor. Hatcher has said that in his version, Jekyll isn’t all good and Hyde isn’t all bad. San Diego actor-director Shana Wride will direct. Oct. 18-Nov. 12.

“Intimate Apparel” by Lynn Nottage: This acclaimed 2003 play is the story of a lonely Black seamstress starting her own clothes-making business in 1905 New York. Though the business thrives, her personal life is shattered by unrequited love for one man and a forbidden romance with another. Actor-director Shirley Jo Finney will direct. Jan. 10 – Feb. 4, 2024.

“Tartuffe” by Molière: Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Wilbur translated French playwright Molière’s 1664 comedy in 1955. It’s the story of a charlatan who worms his way into a wealthy family’s home and good graces through flattery, lies and religious hypocrisy. Richard Baird will direct. This production will transfer to Laguna Playhouse after the local run. March 6-31, 2024.

“Sense of Decency” by Jake Broder: This world premiere psychological thriller is based on the book “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist” by journalist Jack El-Hai. It’s the true story of the American Army psychiatrist Douglas M. Kelley, who was tasked with interviewing and determining the competency of Nazi leader Hermann Göring during the post-WWII Nuremberg trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ellenstein will direct. April 17-May 12, 2024.

“Camelot” by Lerner & Loewe: This classic 1960 musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, which recently opened in a revival on Broadway, tells the love triangle story of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. Jeffrey B. Moss will direct. May 29-June 23, 2024.

“Don’t Dress for Dinner” by Marc Camoletti: This London-born stage farce, adapted from Camoletti’s French play by Robin Hawdon, returns to the North Coast Rep stage after a successful run in 2009. It’s about a married man, whose efforts to cover up his extramarital affair lead to an ever-growing series of catastrophes and misunderstandings. Christopher Williams will direct. July 17-Aug. 11, 2024.

“2 Pianos 4 Hands” by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt: Returning as a season extra after last winter’s sold-out run, it’s the musical story of two concert pianists, who are lifelong friends and musical rivals, and their love-hate relationship with the piano. Dec. 8-Dec. 31.

A woman and man rehearse a play together.
Samantha Ginn, director of education for New Village Arts Theatre, left, and neurodivergent actor Reid Moriarty, in a filmed segment for the theater’s planned documentary “Extraordinary Character.”
(Courtesy of Blu Star Productions)

New Village Arts plans documentary

New Village Arts Theatre and Blu Star Productions are collaborating on a film documentary that will showcase the Carlsbad theater’s training program for young adult actors with neurodiversity and other special needs. It will be titled “Extraordinary Character.”

The film will feature Samantha Ginn, the director of education at New Village Arts, who started an improv camp at NVA for actors with special needs eight years ago. The film will follow Ginn and her students as they rehearse the play “Stellaluna” and then perform it at eight schools in North County and San Diego. The film is being written and directed by Nashville filmmaker Alex Astrella, who is on the autism spectrum.

An informational video for “Extraordinary Character” can be found at