To say that Kyra Da Costa is an actress is a little like saying that Joan Rivers has had some Botox. This multifaceted Jersey City resident is a dancer, singer, actor, and martial artist, among many other things. Well-known to the Broadway theater community, she’s a real star but with a down-to-earth quality that makes her fit right in with her Jersey City Heights neighbors.
She moved to Jersey City because it offers “the suburban life with quick access to the city.”
Da Costa is really busy these days rehearsing for Baby, It’s You, the upcoming Broadway musical about the 1950s musical group the Shirelles, which opens at the Broadhurst on April 27.
‘The rewards are immediate. You see the audience laugh and cry.” – Kyra Da Costa
Though Da Costa grew up in Queens and went to the legendary La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts, made famous by the show Fame, she said, “There’s something about Jersey I like.”
In fact, Baby, it’s you is stitched with colorful New Jersey thread. The story focuses on Florence Greenberg, the Passaic housewife who launched an almost impossibly fantasy-like career after listening to four of her daughter’s classmates sing at a Passaic High School talent night.
In a nutshell, she loved what she heard, named the group the Shirelles, and used that first effort to launch the incredibly successful Scepter Records.
The year was 1958.
Da Costa wasn’t around back then, but “growing up I heard a couple of their songs,” she said. “Mom and Dad had an album collection.”
The title song, “Baby It’s You,” was a huge hit along with many more, including “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “Tonight’s the Night,” “Will you Love me Tomorrow,” and “Mama Said.” (Da Costa sings a few bars: “There will be days like this, Mama said.”)
Florence Greenberg is played by veteran actor Beth Leavel, who lives in Harrington Park.
Greenberg famously said she was “a white woman in a black business … and one who can’t carry a tune.”
She went on to help start the singing/songwriting careers of Bert Bacharach and Hal David, among others.
Seems like Da Costa was destined for the stage. Her mother, Joyce Greene, was an actress and singer and the first black model to appear in the pages of Seventeen Magazine. Da Costa focused on dance in high school and sang in the high school choir.
She went on to graduate from Howard University with a major in musical theater. Howard has graduated a number of famous black entertainers, including Debbie Allen (of Fame fame), Phylicia Rashad, Roberta Flack, and Shawn Combs.
Da Costa’s karate skills are good preparation for one of her other passions. “I want to do action films and do some of my own stunts,” she said. She sees herself as a “hot badass chick” in a film like Charlie’s Angels or G.I Joe.
Da Costa has lived and worked in Los Angeles and always leaves L.A. open as an option. “I kinda go where the work is,” she said.
Sometimes the work leads to television. She’s acted on the hit series House along with high school classmate Omar Epps, who plays Dr. Foreman on the show. Actor Marlon Wayans was also a classmate. “We were all good friends in school,” Da Costa said. “I would run around and see if they could catch me.”
Stage and screen offer contrasting experiences. “It’s such a different process,” she said. “The reward in TV is different from live stage, where the rewards are immediate. You see the audience laugh and cry. You see how you touch them.”
TV offers other advantages. “With TV the reward is to get it in one or two takes and make the director happy,” she said, “and then watching on TV with your family and friends around you.”
The play’s the thing
When a friend told her about auditions for Baby, It’s You, Da Costa headed back from Los Angeles. She’d also played on the Broadway stage in Dream Girls.
“It’s my fifth Broadway show,” she said. “It’s definitely where my heart is.”
She’s got faith in her future.
“I feel God has something in store for me,” she said. “I’m thankful for the blessing He’s given me and the opportunity to work.”
Da Costa comes from a family of believers, in God and themselves.
“My parents raised me to be the best person I can be as a Christian,” she said.
And the family is truly blessed. Her father, Floyd Little, formerly with the Denver Broncos, has been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
For now, Da Costa is absorbed in being a Shirelle.
“The cast is amazing,” she said. “It’s so refreshing. We all get along. It’s such a high level of talent. It’s kind of like working with sisters. We have an awesome bond.”
Another Shirelle, Crystal Starr Knighton, is from New Jersey, hailing from Hackensack. The other two are Erica Ash and Christina Sajous.
Da Costa admits to being a little nervous.
“If you don’t have a few little butterflies, you should get out of the business,” she said, “but it goes away once you hit the stage.”
Whether it’s the stage or a film set, Da Costa says, “I follow my heart and my passion.”
Kate Rounds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..