Q&A: Christopher Kenney
After more than a decade of entertaining and enchanting audience from all over the world in Zumanity at New York-New York, the “Mistress of Sensuality” known as Edie is one of the most beloved and recognizable performers on the Las Vegas Strip. She is your welcoming guide into the sexy and edgy universe created every night in this long-running Cirque du Soleil production, but Edie was actually born in New York City, created by Oregon-born dancer and entertainer Christopher Kenney.
How long have you been a part of Zumanity now?
Eleven and a half years, which is crazy because I really thought once I got here and was doing the show that they would want to go another route. It didn’t happen.
Why did you think that?
I had been in ballet forever and did Broadway and all the things, but the circus? And they called me out of the blue. I didn’t audition. I’d never seen the show and had not been to Vegas since I was 18 years old, and Cirque du Soleil just wasn’t a tangible thing. It was the crème de la crème of all entertainment. I loved it very much, but never thought I would be a part of it. I found it really intimidating, but it worked out really well.
Did you feel more comfortable once you took the stage for the first time?
I can’t even tell you how intimidating it was. Everybody was just different and it was hard to learn, at first, how all these people work and treat each other. Zumanity is a very loving place. When it was finally time, I remember going onstage, then I blacked out. I don’t remember anything. It was very overwhelming. It wasn’t the audience, it was just the umbrella of Cirque du Soleil. I just did not want to mess up. I’m much more comfortable now, but I always feel anxious. That curtain never opens and it’s like, “Let’s get this over with.” It’s always exciting, “OK! Here we go!”
It’s still very daring, too. What do you think sets the show apart from the other sexy shows in Las Vegas?
What sets our show apart is the elegance, the look of it. It is art. When I’m not in the show, when I’m rotated out once a month for the understudy, I go out front and watch and I get fish-hooked into this show. I can’t get over how beautiful it is. I sit back and I’m just so proud to be a part of it, because anything you do over and over can get old, but this show has something about it that just feels so special and fresh.
The character of Edie existed before Zumanity, correct?
Yes. My friend came to New York for Halloween and wanted to do drag together and that was the first night I was offered a job. We went to a small West Village restaurant and they said, “Oh my God! You look great. You have to do a show!” The first week, it was just a party, but the second week I walked in and people were there waiting. “Edie! We came back with more friends to see you!” That’s when the performer kicked in, because there are people expecting you, an audience. And it was my first time being independent. I didn’t have to listen to anybody. I created my own character and my own time, and it really grew quickly in New York.
You interact with the audience so much, probably more than any other Cirque character. Does that make every show different for you?
I never know what I’m going to get. I lived in New York City for 14 years and never thought I could be surprised, but this audience surprises me. They say the craziest things. One question I ask is, “What do you want to do tonight after the show?” I’ll ask the men and they’ll look to their wives to see if they can answer, and the wife will be sitting there like, “This is not going to go well.” But it’s fun to see their expressions. They get carried away and it’s crazy. But I like that Zumanity is a go-to to get somebody in the mood.