From Dreams to Doing

Orlando performer Janine Klein took a detour while discovering career success at home and in the Big Apple.

Janine Klein began dreaming of Broadway fame in kindergarten. 

“I had posters of New York City,” says Klein, who grew up in Florida and New York State. “I dreamed of it.” On visits to the city, she says, she’d pick up the show flyers tossed out on streets and staple them to her bedroom walls.

“I was obsessed, to be honest.”

Known among Central Florida’s theater performers and audiences for her powerful voice and her ability to play everything from a brassy broad to a vulnerable naïf, Klein is finally finding success beyond Florida—but she’s no longer obsessed with Broadway.

“She’s a brilliant singer and also very funny,” says Laurel Clark, executive show director at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows. Clark watched Klein mature from a child performer at the former Civic Theatre to the adult actor and singer whose Orlando Fringe shows sell out. 

Determined to earn her living as a performer, Klein has been singing and acting in dozens of shows throughout Central Florida for years, from Orlando’s Mad Cow and Shakespeare theaters to the theme parks, the Parliament House gay resort, Sleuths and other theaters in Lake and Osceola counties. 

In 1999, Klein was considering a move to New York City when she learned she was pregnant. She was ready to be a mom but not to forgo show biz. Along with raising her son Sage, now 17, Klein juggled entertainment gigs and pay-the-bills jobs. In the mid-2000s, she was cast in a Sleuths show with Joshua Eads, a performer from Leesburg. The two became instant friends, sharing a dark sense of humor in addition to similar childhood experiences.

“She’s definitely the yin to my yang,” says Eads. “We’ve always been able to finish each other’s sentences.” 

As the two friends pursued their careers, Eads developed a drag queen character that gained him some fame in and beyond Florida. So much so that, in 2015, he decided to compete on Logo TV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Klein tagged along for moral support. Eads placed second, and his star immediately rose higher in the entertainment firmament. Then he and Klein started writing and performing cabaret shows together, and New York audiences discovered Klein.

Eads’ agent sent a video of them to a booking agent and, in a New York minute, Klein and Eads were performing at the off-Broadway Laurie Beechman Theatre and touring the U.S. and Europe. Now Eads has cut an album called Sweet T—with Klein as his backup singer. And the Beechman has twice asked Klein to perform a solo show.

“We noticed how much fun she is to watch on stage,” says Michael Kirk Lane, the Beechman’s house manager. “The audiences responded to her.”

Klein is thrilled. She hopes to tour Sweet T with Eads and write more of her own cabaret material. But with maturity has come the realization that she wants to make “New York entertainer” part of the mosaic of her life rather than the centerpiece. Her son will enter college in the fall, but her longtime boyfriend and her parents are in Orlando.

She’ll continue to do cabaret with Eads, Klein says, and she’d audition if the right role beckoned on Broadway, but Orlando is a pretty good place, too.

“I’ve been very lucky to have performed all over the world and in New York City venues,” Klein says. But “New York isn’t the end-all and be-all.”