On August 20, Kelli O’Hara, “Broadway’s golden girl” in the words of New York Times critic Stephen Holden, will take the stage at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. O’Hara starred in the recent Tony Award-winning production of South Pacific, putting her own stamp on the role of Nellie Forbush in a performance hailed by Ben Brantley, also of The Times, as “subtly shaded.” Her “lovely soprano is never merely lovely,” Brantley went on, praising O’Hara’s ability to bring a powerful emotional punch to a sweet, soaring soprano.
For O’Hara, South Pacific was part of a Broadway trifecta of hit shows and Tony and Drama Desk noms. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native made her Broadway debut in Jekyll and Hyde and continued to attract notice in Follies, Sweet Smell of Success and Dracula. A starring role in The Light in the Piazza brought her a “Best Featured Actress in a Musical” Tony nod, followed a year later by similar honors for her role in The Pajama Game, a performance that impressed Brantley again. He wrote that “she rockets past the promising ingénue status she attained with The Light in the Piazza, and becomes a full-fledged musical star.” In Pajama Game, she co-starred with Harry Connick, Jr. and in The Light In the Piazza her romantic leading man was Matthew Morrisson of “Glee.”
O’Hara comes to the WHBPAC fresh from concert dates with the Boston Pops singing Cole Porter, but she is equally adept at performing in more intimate venues and other media. In addition to her Broadway credits, she has appeared on television and in numerous films, including Sex and the City 2. She has sung at Carnegie Hall with Barbara Cook, at the Kennedy Center with Marvin Hamlisch and the National Symphony Orchestra, and she had a sold-out run at the legendary Café Carlyle.
This talented performer attended Oklahoma City University, where she studied with Florence Birdwell, who, four years earlier, worked with a then-Broadway hopeful—Kristen Chenoweth. After graduating with a degree in music performance/opera, O’Hara won the State Metropolitan Opera Competition, packed her bags and headed to New York. True to her Oklahoma roots and her training in classical music, O’Hara’s repertoire ranges from country music to dizzying coloratura, and includes just about everything in between. With a recent foray into songwriting and a new album, Always, on Billboard’s Jazz Chart and Heat-seeker Chart, O’Hara will be bringing her best to the Westhampton Beach PAC this weekend.