Kelli O’Hara

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Kelli O’Hara
Kelli O'Hara Memorial Day concert.jpg

O’Hara performing at the National Memorial Day Concert in May 2010
Born (1976-04-16) April 16, 1976 (age 41)
Elk City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 2001–present

Kelli Christine O’Hara (born April 16, 1976)[1] 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),[2] before winning the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for the 2015 revival of The King and I.

Early life[edit]

O’Hara grew up in Oklahoma in an Irish American family.[3] 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.

Career[edit]

O’Hara played the role of Young Hattie in the 2001 Broadway revival of Follies, and then played the role of Young Phyllis.[4] She next appeared in the 2002 Broadway production of Sweet Smell of Success as Susan.[5] In 2003 she played Albertine in the Off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons production of the musical My Life With Albertine,[6] and, in 2004, Lucy Westenra in the Broadway production of the musical Dracula.[7]

She starred as Clara in the 2005 Broadway production of The Light in the Piazza at Lincoln Center‘s Vivian Beaumont Theatre.[8] 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.[9] She received a 2005 Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.[10] O’Hara has been nominated for, or won, a Tony Award for every subsequent role she has played on Broadway.[11] 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“.[12]

In 2007, O’Hara played the role of Dot/Marie in the Los Angeles Reprise! concert staging of Sunday in the Park with George[13] and Eliza Doolittle in the New York Philharmonic’s semi-staged production of My Fair Lady at Avery Fisher Hall.[14] She was the voice of producer Beth Totenbag on PBS’s 2008 animated series Click and Clack’s As the Wrench Turns.[citation needed] From 2008 to 2010, O’Hara starred as Nellie Forbush in the Broadway revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater,[15] for which she was nominated for her third Tony Award.[16] O’Hara took maternity leave in March 2009 and returned to the musical in October 2009.[17][18]

O’Hara played the role of Ella Peterson in the 2010 New York City Center Encores! concert presentation of Bells Are Ringing.[19] 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.[20][21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] Elyse Sommer, the CurtainUp.com reviewer, noted O’Hara’s “superb vocal chops” and her “exquisite” duets with co-star Steven Pasquale.[28] She played Mrs. Darling in the 2014 NBC telecast Peter Pan Live!.[29] She sang two concerts, titled Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays, in December 2014 at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32] O’Hara made her solo debut concert at Carnegie Hall in October 2016[33] and guest-starred as the recurring character Dody on the fourth season of Masters of Sex.[34] She played Fiona in the Encores! production of Brigadoon at New York City Center in November 2017.[35] 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.”[36]

O’Hara has been cast in the 2018 season of 13 Reasons Why to play Jackie, an anti-bullying advocate.[37] In 2018 at the Metropolitan Opera, she is set to sing Despina in Così fan tutte.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40]

Personal life[edit]

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.[41] The couple also has a daughter, Charlotte, born in 2013.[42]

Stage roles[edit]

O’Hara at a NYS ARTS Fall Gala in 2008

Broadway
Off-Broadway and regional theatre
Operatic repertoire

Discography[edit]

Cast recordings
Soundtracks

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2005 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical The Light in the Piazza Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated
2006 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical The Pajama Game Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
2008 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical South Pacific Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
2012 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Nice Work If You Can Get It Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
2014 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical The Bridges of Madison County Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
2015 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical The King and I Won
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated

Roles (18)

The King and I Playbill - Opening Night The King and I (2015)
Opened Apr 16, 2015
  • as Anna Leonowens (Original)
The King and I - Opening Night
  • Departed on Apr 17, 2016
The Bridges of Madison County Playbill - Opening Night The Bridges of Madison County (2014)
Opened Feb 20, 2014
  • as Francesca (Original)
The Bridges of Madison County Playbill - Opening Night
Nice Work If You Can Get It Playbill - Opening Night Nice Work If You Can Get It (2012)
Opened Apr 24, 2012
  • as Billie Bendix (Original)
Nice Work If You Can Get It - Opening Night
  • Departed on Mar 24, 2013
South Pacific Playbill - Opening Night South Pacific (2008)
Opened Apr 3, 2008
  • as Ensign Nellie Forbush (Original)
  • as Ensign Nellie Forbush (Replacement)
South Pacific - Opening Night
  • Mar 1, 2008 – Jan 3, 2010
  • Oct 12, 2009 – Jan 4, 2010

    +

    Additional Dates

    • Aug 10, 2010 – Aug 22, 2010
The Pajama Game Playbill - Opening Night The Pajama Game (2006)
Opened Feb 23, 2006
  • as Babe Williams (Original)
Pajama Game - Opening Night
The Light in the Piazza Playbill - Opening Night The Light in the Piazza (2005)
Opened Apr 18, 2005
  • as Clara Johnson (Original)
The Light in the Piazza - Opening Night
Dracula the Musical Playbill - Opening Night Dracula, the Musical (2004)
Opened Aug 19, 2004
  • as Lucy Westenra (Original)
Dracula the Musical
cover_no_shadow Sweet Smell of Success (2002)
Opened Mar 14, 2002
  • as Susan (Original)
Follies Playbill - Opening Night Follies (2001)
Opened Apr 5, 2001
  • as Young Hattie (Original)
  • as Ensemble (Original)
  • as Young Phyllis (Replacement)
  • as Young Sally (Understudy – Original)
  • as Young Phyllis (Understudy – Original)
  • as Young Heidi (Understudy – Original)
Follies - Opening Night
Jekyll & Hyde Playbill - Opening Night Jekyll & Hyde (1997)
Opened Apr 28, 1997
  • as Kate (Replacement)
  • as Emma Carew (Understudy – Replacement)
  • Jul 20, 2000 – Jan 7, 2001
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