O'Hara performing at the National Memorial Day Concert in May 2010
April 16, 1976 |
Elk City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Kelli Christine O'Hara (born April 16, 1976) is an American actress and singer. She has appeared on Broadway and Off-Broadway in many musicals since making her Broadway debut as a replacement in Jekyll & Hyde in 2000. A six-time Tony Award nominee, her first nomination was for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for the 2005 production of The Light in the Piazza. Her subsequent nominations were for The Pajama Game (2006), South Pacific (2008), Nice Work If You Can Get It (2012) and The Bridges of Madison County (2014), before winning the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for the 2015 revival of The King and I.
O'Hara grew up in Oklahoma in an Irish American family. She graduated from Deer Creek High School and also attended Oklahoma City University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Music in vocal performance/opera. O'Hara studied voice with Florence Birdwell, who also taught Kristin Chenoweth four years earlier. O'Hara and Chenoweth are both alumnae of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.
O'Hara played the role of Young Hattie in the 2001 Broadway revival of Follies, and then played the role of Young Phyllis. She next appeared in the 2002 Broadway production of Sweet Smell of Success as Susan. In 2003 she played Albertine in the Off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons production of the musical My Life With Albertine, and, in 2004, Lucy Westenra in the Broadway production of the musical Dracula.
She starred as Clara in the 2005 Broadway production of The Light in the Piazza at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre. She had appeared in a workshop of the musical at the Theatre Lab at Sundance, and in tryouts in Seattle and Chicago, as the character of Franca. She received a 2005 Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. O'Hara has been nominated for, or won, a Tony Award for every subsequent role she has played on Broadway. In her next Broadway musical, she played Babe in the 2006 revival of The Pajama Game, for which she was nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. For this performance, New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley wrote that O'Hara "rockets past the promising ingénue status she attained with Light in the Piazza".
In 2007, O'Hara played the role of Dot/Marie in the Los Angeles Reprise! concert staging of Sunday in the Park with George and Eliza Doolittle in the New York Philharmonic's semi-staged production of My Fair Lady at Avery Fisher Hall. She was the voice of producer Beth Totenbag on PBS's 2008 animated series Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns. From 2008 to 2010, O'Hara starred as Nellie Forbush in the Broadway revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, for which she was nominated for her third Tony Award. O'Hara took maternity leave in March 2009 and returned to the musical in October 2009.
O'Hara played the role of Ella Peterson in the 2010 New York City Center Encores! concert presentation of Bells Are Ringing. She played the role of Ellen in the film Sex and the City 2 (2010), and in 2011 she appeared in "Mercy", the first episode of the second season of the CBS show Blue Bloods. Also in 2011, she played the role of Amalia in a benefit concert of She Loves Me, presented by the Roundabout Theater Company, in honor of the company's 20th anniversary. Scott Ellis directed, and the musical director was Paul Gemignani. She had performed one of the best known songs from the show, "Will He Like Me?", the previous evening at Kennedy Center in honor of Barbara Cook.
She starred on Broadway as Billie Bendix in Nice Work If You Can Get It from April 2012 to March 2013 and received her fourth Tony Award nomination. In 2012, at the New Year's Eve concert, "Celebrating Marvin Hamlisch", at Lincoln Center, she sang "At the Ballet", from A Chorus Line, along with Audra McDonald and Megan Hilty. In 2013, she played the lead character of Julie in the staged concert of Carousel presented by the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall. From January to May 2014, she starred as Francesca Johnson in the Broadway musical The Bridges of Madison County, for which she received her fifth Tony Award nomination. Elyse Sommer, the CurtainUp.com reviewer, noted O'Hara's "superb vocal chops" and her "exquisite" duets with co-star Steven Pasquale. She played Mrs. Darling in the 2014 NBC telecast Peter Pan Live!. She sang two concerts, titled Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays, in December 2014 at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops. On December 31, 2014, O'Hara made her operatic debut at The Metropolitan Opera as Valencienne in Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow, alongside Renee Fleming in the title role.
She returned to Lincoln Center Theatre to star as Anna Leonowens in the Broadway revival of The King and I opposite Ken Watanabe as The King. The production began previews at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in March 2015 and opened in April 2015. This role won O'Hara her first Tony Award. O'Hara's final performance as Anna was on April 17, 2016. O'Hara made her solo debut concert at Carnegie Hall in October 2016 and guest-starred as the recurring character Dody on the fourth season of Masters of Sex. She played Fiona in the Encores! production of Brigadoon at New York City Center in November 2017. Jeremy Gerard of Deadline Hollywood called O'Hara's performance "luminous", writing: "O’Hara is impossibly beautiful, vocally and in conveying Fiona’s romantic determination and heartbreak."
O'Hara has been cast in the 2018 season of 13 Reasons Why to play Jackie, an anti-bullying advocate. She has also been cast to reprise her role in The King and I at the London Palladium for a limited run from June to September 2018. O'Hara is scheduled to return to Broadway in 2019 in Kiss Me, Kate as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine. The production is set to be directed by Scott Ellis and choreographed by Warren Carlyle. The revival is produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, which had produced a benefit concert of the show with O'Hara, Ellis, and Carlyle, in 2016.
O'Hara is married to Greg Naughton of The Sweet Remains, son of actor James Naughton. Their first child, Owen James, was born on June 27, 2009. The couple has a daughter, Charlotte, born in 2013.
- Jekyll & Hyde (2000) as Kate (replacement) / Emma (understudy)
- Follies (2001) as Young Hattie/Ensemble, then as Young Phyllis
- Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical (2002) as Susan
- Dracula, the Musical (2004) as Lucy Westenra
- The Light in the Piazza (2005) as Clara Johnson
- The Pajama Game (2006) as Babe Williams
- South Pacific (2008) as Nellie Forbush
- Nice Work If You Can Get It (2012) as Billie Bendix
- The Bridges of Madison County (2014) as Francesca Johnson
- The King and I (2015) as Anna Leonowens
- Off-Broadway and regional theatre
- Beauty by Tina Landau (2003) (La Jolla Playhouse)
- My Life with Albertine (2003) as Albertine (Off-Broadway)
- The Light in the Piazza (2004) as Franca (in Seattle and Chicago)
- Far From Heaven (2012) as Cathy Whitaker (developmental premiere, Williamstown Theatre Festival)
- Operatic repertoire
- The Merry Widow by Franz Lehár (2014) as Valencienne (The Metropolitan Opera)
- Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell (2016) as Dido (MasterVoices and the Orchestra of St. Luke's)
- 2008 Wonder in the World
- 2011 Always
- Cast recordings
- 2002 Sweet Smell of Success
- 2003 My Life with Albertine
- 2005 The Light in the Piazza
- 2006 Harry on Broadway, Act I—two-disc set: 1. Original Broadway cast recording The Pajama Game; 2. Songs from Thou Shalt Not, Harry Connick, Jr. featuring Kelli O'Hara
- 2008 South Pacific
- 2012 Nice Work If You Can Get It
- 2014 The Bridges of Madison County
- 2015 The King and I
- 2014 Peter Pan Live!
Awards and nominations
- Hernandez, Ernio. "Playbill.com's Cue & A: Kelli O'Hara", Playbill, June 10, 2008, accessed July 13, 2016
- "Kelli O'Hara wins best actress Tony on her sixth attempt". ABC News. 7 June 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
- Kelly, Mary Pat."Broadway's Irish Colleen"Irish America magazine, Oct/Nov 2008 issue
- "Follies 2001 Broadway Revival", sondheimguide.com, accessed May 22, 2014
- Jones, Kenneth and Simonson, Robert. "Sweet Smell of Success Ends Broadway Run June 15" Archived 2014-05-22 at the Wayback Machine., Playbill.com, June 15, 2002
- Jones, Kenneth. "My Life With Albertine, the Musical That Would Make Proust Sing, Opens March 13" Archived 2014-05-22 at the Wayback Machine., Playbill.com, March 13, 2003
- Stevens, Beth.Kelli O'Hara", broadway.com, September 28, 2004
- Simonson, Robert."Guettel-Lucas Musical The Light in the Piazza Opens on Broadway April 18" Archived 2014-05-22 at the Wayback Machine., Playbill.com, April 18, 2005
- Gans, Andrew. "Diva Talk: A Chat with Piazza's Kelli O'Hara Plus News of Menzel, Haran and Lansbury", Playbill.com, August 26, 2005
- Jones, Kenneth. "Doubt Is Best Play, Spamalot Best Musical; Butz, Irwin, Clark, Jones, Nichols Win 2005 Tonys" Archived 2013-11-04 at the Wayback Machine., Playbill.com, June 5, 2005
- "Kelli O'Hara Broadway", Playbillvault.com, accessed May 7, 2015
- Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review. The Pajama Game", The New York Times, February 24, 2006
- Gans, Andrew. "Hello, George! Sunday in the Park – with Felciano and O'Hara – Begins Reprise! Run Jan. 30", Playbill.com, January 30, 2007, retrieved November 17, 2017
- Gans, Andrew. "Philharmonic's My Fair Lady Dances Into Avery Fisher Hall March 7", Playbill, March 7, 2007, retrieved November 17, 2017
- Hetrick, Adam. "Kelli O'Hara Returns to South Pacific for Musical's Final Weeks Aug. 10", Playbill, August 10, 2010, retrieved November 17, 2017
- Ku, Andrew. "Just the Facts: List of 2008 Tony Award Winners and Nominees", Playbill.com, June 16, 2008, retrieved November 17, 2017
- Hetrick, Adam. "Expectant O'Hara to Depart South Pacific March 8" Archived 2009-02-03 at the Wayback Machine., playbill.com, February 2, 2009
- Glikas, Bruce. "Welcome Back, Kelli! Broadway Sweetheart O'Hara Returns to South Pacific", broadway.com, October 15, 2009
- Kenrick, John. "Bells Are Ringing Review, November 2010", musicals101.com, accessed May 23, 2014
- "Blue Bloods: 'Mercy'", cbspressexpress.com, retrieved December 31, 2016
- Blake, Leslie. "Review. Sex and the City 2", theatermania.com, May 26, 2010, retrieved December 31, 2016
- Jones, Kenneth. "She Loves Me, a '90s Hit for Roundabout, Gets Benefit Concert Dec. 5; Kelli O'Hara and Josh Radnor Star", Playbill, December 5, 2011
- Gans, Andrew. "Updated: Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Rebecca Luker, Kelli O'Hara, Sutton Foster Paid Tribute to Barbara Cook at Kennedy Center Honors", Playbill.com, December 5, 2011
- "Kelli O'Hara Broadway Credits and Awards", Playbill, retrieved December 31, 2016
- Gans, Andrew. "Celebrating Marvin Hamlisch Concert, with Audra McDonald, Kelli O'Hara, Raúl Esparza, Josh Groban, Will Be Televised", Playbill.com, November 5, 2012
- Suskin, Steven. "A Memorable Carousel, Starring Kelli O'Hara and Nathan Gunn", Playbill, March 1, 2013, retrieved December 31, 2016
- Bowgen, Philippe. "In Moving Final-Performance Speech, Kelli O'Hara Assures Bridges Is 'By No Means Going Into the Ground'" Archived 2014-05-21 at the Wayback Machine., Playbill.com, May 19, 2014
- Sommer, Elyse. "A CurtainUp Review. The Bridges of Madison County", curtainup.com, accessed May 23, 2014
- Snetiker, Marc. Broadway star Kelli O'Hara joins Peter Pan Live as Mrs. Darling, ew.com, September 9, 2014
- Hetrick, Adam. "Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Morrison Come Home for the Holidays at Carnegie Hall Starting Tonight", Playbill, December 19, 2014
- Gans, Andrew. "Kelli O'Hara, Renée Fleming and Nathan Gunn Star in The Merry Widow; Susan Stroman Directs", Playbill, December 31, 2014, retrieved December 31, 2016
- Hetrick, Adam. "Exclusive: Marin Mazzie Will Succeed Kelli O'Hara in Broadway's King and I", Playbill.com, February 16, 2016
- Dziemianowcz, Joe. "Broadway star Kelli O'Hara shares Carnegie Hall solo debut with Barbara Cook, Kristin Chenoweth and, briefly, Hillary Clinton", New York Daily News, October 31, 2016
- Sharma, Nemisha. "Masters Of Sex Season 4 Spoilers: Showtime Show Adds Kelli O'Hara As Bill Masters' Ex-Lover" Archived 2016-12-31 at the Wayback Machine., Design & Trend, August 5, 2016
- Green, Jesse. "Review: A Brief ‘Brigadoon’ That’s Almost Like Falling in Love", The New York Times, November 16, 2017
- Gerard, Jeremy. "Lerner & Loewe's Golden Brigadoon With Kelli O’Hara and Aasif Mandvi", Deadline Hollywood, November 17, 2017; and Dziemianowicz, Joe. "Encores! Brigadoon glows with Kelli O'Hara, Patrick Wilson, Robert Fairchild: theater review", New York Daily News, November 16, 2017
- King, Eric. "13 Reasons Why: Kelli O'Hara, Samantha Logan, more cast in season 2", Entertainment Weekly, August 8, 2017, accessed November 7, 2017
- Hetrick, Adam. "Broadway Revival of The King and I, With Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe, Confirms London Run", Playbill, November 17, 2017
- Clement, Olivia. "Kelli O’Hara to Return to Broadway in Kiss Me, Kate", Playbill, November 6, 2017
- Hetrick, Adam."Tony Nominee O'Hara and Naughton Welcome a Son"[permanent dead link], Playbill.com, June 29, 2009
- Gioia, Michael. "Kelli O'Hara and Greg Naughton Welcome Baby Girl" Archived 2014-04-13 at the Wayback Machine., Playbill.com, September 16, 2013
- Hernandez, Ernio. "Sleeper: Danieley and O'Hara Star in World Premiere Fairy Tale 'Beauty' at La Jolla, Sept. 16-Oct. 19", Playbill, September 13, 2003
- Hetrick, Adam. "'Far From Heaven', With Kelli O'Hara, Tests Its Wings in Williamstown Starting July 19" Archived 2012-07-21 at the Wayback Machine., Playbill.com, July 19, 2012
- Tommasini, Anthony. "Review: Kelli O'Hara’s Operatic Turn in Dido and Aeneas", The New York Times, April 29, 2016, accessed July 19, 2017
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