Western grad goes big

Megan Engle

Reagan Kays can remember April 30, 2002, like it was yesterday.

The Western alumna had been living in New York City for about five months and had just left the auditioning studio when her cell phone rang. In the middle of a crowded bus, a scream of joy came out of her mouth – she had made the cut and was now a cast member of the Broadway musical “42nd Street.”

She received that casting call after a choreographer for the show saw her in dance class in New York.

Kays began dancing when she was three years old and has stuck with it all her life.

“I still have a pair of tap shoes at home that are four or five inches long,” she said.

All through high school and college, Kays knew she wanted to be a dancer.

While at Western, Kays said she spent most of her time dancing in the studios.

All her hard work and perspiration paid off.

She has been performing in one of New York’s top five musicals, “42nd Street,” for about nine months.

Kays described “42nd Street” as a show within a show. The play ironically focuses on a young girl named Peggy trying to make it on Broadway. Kays plays a member in the chorus line, singing, dancing and acting.

“She’s what we call the triple threat,” said Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance David Young. “She can do all three.”

In her final year at Western she was in three plays, “Pippin,” “Caucasian Chalk Circle” and the lead role in “Proposals.”

“She is a very good dancer at a professional level, a remarkable girl, a hard worker, very dependable and very intelligent,” said former Theatre and Dance Department head Bill Leonard.

After graduating from Western, Kays took the plunge and left for the Big Apple.

When she first arrived in January of 2002, she moved into a basement apartment in Queens where a family lived above her.

Just recently she moved into another apartment, still in Queens, but the living conditions are a drastic change.

“To get an apartment with rooms is a big deal,” she said excitedly. “It has hardwood floors, in a cute neighborhood and is beside little cafes and boutiques.”

Kays said she loves Kentucky and still keeps in contact with some of her friends from college.

“I miss them all dearly, but New York City is really the only place I can do this,” she said.

A typical work day for Kays doesn’t start until 6:15 p.m. when she leaves to do a show. She performs eight shows a week, with a day off on Monday.

“I really enjoy working on Broadway,” she said. “I really enjoy being on stage in front of people live. Even if it’s the same show, everything’s a little different.”

Kays gives a lot of credit to her professors at Western, but also adds that she doesn’t think anything could prepare her for what she has faced.

“I am so grateful for my experiences at Western,” she said. “I’m sure they have a lot to do with where I am now.”

For those students who are pursuing a major in theater or dance, Kays says the best advice is to “definitely, definitely, definitely get involved in every production possible. You can learn so much in college about your mistakes, so it’s best to go up there and make them.”

Kays also points out that students should get the most out of classes and professors while they still can and learn to audition early.

“She was a delightful person to work with,” said Theatre and Dance professor Jim Brown. “And in this day and age, you better be a pleasant person to work with because there are ten other people waiting for your role.”

When Kays got the call to come out and audition for an opening in “42nd Street,” there were around 200 people auditioning for the same part. They were only going to hire one. She said she thought it was going to be a “long shot.”

But now Kays plans on staying in New York for a while. She enjoys the Big Apple cuisine and described herself as a “shop-a-holic”.

She window-shops on 5th Avenue and, during the summer months, travels around the city to watch the free outdoor concerts. She also cheers on her friends in the Broadway softball league in Central Park.

“It’s such an exciting job, I’m so lucky to do what I’m doing and making a living,” she said.

Kays plans on staying with “42nd Street” and New York for quite some time. She said she will continue to audition for other roles and see where they take her. Right now she is open to anything.

Reach Megan Engle at [email protected]