Meet the star of Broadway and celebrated songstress who applies her signature vocals to iconic songs from James Bond films.

The name’s Jenkins, Capathia Jenkins

Whether on the Broadway stage or in major concerts halls, Capathia Jenkins always brings her A-game. As one among many admiring critics wrote, “She has a warm, personable stage presence and a powerful, soulful voice — the product of gospel choir singing in her youth, classical voice training, and musical theatre experience.”

Along with the CSO and conductor John Morris Russell, Jenkins brings all of that to Symphony Center on Tuesday, June 4 for a concert titled “Shaken, Not Stirred,” a celebration of iconic songs from a number of classic James Bond films—Skyfall, Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever, among others.

Not long before her visit, the Brooklyn-born-and-raised Jenkins talked about her recent career shift, her influential mother and working with Martin Short.

You’ve been touring concerts halls for 17 years now. How has that evolved over time?

When I first started, I was one of three singers in a program called “Broadway Rocks.” My track was a Black girl who could sing from Dream Girls and The Wiz and Hairspray and shows like that. Other singers were singing from Wicked and Phantom and all of that, so it was a beautiful, well-rounded program. I loved doing it. But at that time, I was doing concert work while I was waiting for my next Broadway gig. Now, this is my work.

As of the beginning of 2024, I have officially closed the chapter on theater and television and film. The other way it’s evolved is that I have met conductors who have said to me, "What do you like to sing? Let’s build a program around you." That has happened over and over and over again.

And I have to say, being onstage with an orchestra the first couple of times I did it was like, “Oh my God, what is happening?” They’re right there. I’m typically standing right in front of the strings. The little girl from Brooklyn who gets excited about that has not changed in 17 years. When I first began, it was all about a survival job to get me to the next theater thing. But somewhere in there, I just fell in love with this work. I’m not playing a character. It’s really me. It lights me up from the inside. And when I allowed myself to just kind of lean into what I was feeling, that I was falling in love with it, I just went with it. It was a long time coming, though, because in this business you’re taught to never say never.

But you’ve got to say no sometimes, right?

For sure. I have a really happy life. But it’s a different happy than when I was on Broadway. Broadway is a team sport. I’m a part of a cast and you want to show up for your cast, and it’s very communal. You bow as a company. This [orchestral] work is very solitary for me. I’m at home in my office. I learn my music. And when I show up for an orchestra rehearsal, that rehearsal is for the orchestra. It’s really not for me. And so I’ve got to show up knowing my charts and knowing when I come in. You do one rehearsal and then the show. But I see that as a welcome challenge. It just feels like a happy place that I really didn’t even know I had. I didn’t know that this could be my life.

Has performing these orchestral concerts allowed you to let your inner diva out in a way you couldn’t on Broadway, where you’ve got to be part of a team?

Diva has such a negative connotation, but I think any of these symphonies I’ve performed with will tell you, “She is respectful and knows how to ask for what she wants. And she shows up on and offstage.” And there are some situations where they will say, "She’s a boss." But the show is like, two hours, and the rest of the time is to hang. You have to treat people with respect and kindness.

So people are allowed to look you directly in the eyes?

For sure. Absolutely. You do not have to look down. You do not have to call me Miss Jenkins.

You were in the off-Broadway revival of Godspell in 2000. Then you worked with Martin Short in his 2006-07 Broadway show Fame Becomes Me. He was in a famous production of Godspell many years ago in Canada. Did you two bond over that?

Oh, my God. Yes, for sure. We laughed and talked about the similarities and cutting our teeth on that. It’s all ensemble-driven and storytelling with bare-bones props. And there was a little nod to it in Fame Becomes Me. I would say Martin Short is one of those people in my life who I watched navigate what it’s like to be a celebrity. He does it with such grace. He’s such a regular human. Just normal and calm. He is one of those people that I do my best to try to emulate.

Your late mom was your mentor. What did you learn from her?

My mom, God rest her soul, is never, ever far from my thoughts. I often think of her when I’m getting ready for a show. Anybody I’ve ever shared a dressing room with will tell you, “Boy, she likes to be quiet.” Yeah. I love my quiet time, putting on makeup or whatever. I’ve always wanted her to be proud of me. And she was, and she is. The thing that I think that she was most proud of is when people would say, "Oh, I love your daughter. She’s so kind.” Because I’ve been singing since I could talk, in the mirror with a hairbrush for a microphone. Singing is a given. So if people say to her, "She sings so good,“ she could easily say, ”Well, I know.” The other thing that’s a given is she knows I’m showing up as my authentic self. She always said to be yourself, that you don’t ever have to put anybody else down. You can accept people for who they are and what they are and then decide whether you want to be around them. But you should always be a leader and not a follower.

You spoke in one interview about being in “the zone” when you’re singing onstage. What does that feel like?

Being in the zone is really about being present in the moment and just free of any other thought except being right here, right now with this audience, this orchestra, this conductor. I feel like I slip into the zone more often now than I used to. And it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I meditate, and I’m really interested in being mindful and present and all of that. I think I’m happiest onstage because when I’m there, I don’t want to be thinking about anything else but being there and singing that lyric in that moment, at that time, and telling that story. One of the things that helps me to get there is I have a great work ethic in the way I prepare and learn my music. It’s been with me since I’m a little girl. All my teachers and vocal coaches taught me that you learn the ink off the page, and then you can bring yourself to it. But you should know it inside and out so that if anybody hits any wrong note, it’s not going to throw you. And that’s something that has really stuck with me. So when I get on stage, I just want to play in the moment and have fun and listen to the horns and listen to the clarinet and have a good time.

It sounds like you don’t take any of this for granted.

I am just so grateful that this is what I get to do. Even on the days when I’m bone tired, when I’ve had to fly across the country and get off the plane and go straight to a sound check — even on those days, I am so grateful. It’s like, Come on. I get paid to do the thing that makes me the happiest.