2006 Tony Awards Q&A: Harry Connick Jr. and Kelli O'Hara

Kelli O'Hara's previous Broadway credits include The Light in the Piazza (Tony and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations), Sweet Smell of Success, Dracula, Sondheim's Follies, and Jekyll & Hyde. 

Following a sold-out concert series at Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1990 and a Tony nomination for his music and lyrics in Thou Shalt Not, Harry Connick, Jr. returned to Broadway in The Pajama Game, his theatrical stage debut. In addition to numerous TV and film credits, Connick has more than 20 million in album sales, three Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award.

Kelli – Coming off of The Light in the Piazza, your part in The Pajama Game couldn't be more different both vocally and stylistically which had some folks skeptical at first. You must be feeling very validated…

Kelli - I am, and of course it's a vindication, because I knew I could do it and I really wanted to get this role for that reason. I'm so glad that it happened. It's a joy, and of course I feel completely fulfilled about that.

With the show's run drawing to a close, are there any parts of the sets or costumes that you'd love to take with you?

Kelli - I want to take all my costumes, because they're all amazing – the blue dress and everything. I would also love to take that little refrigerator. I love that refrigerator. It was such a pain in my rump for so long! Because it's a very authentic 1940s fridge actually. We were supposed to not be in fashion so we had a 10 year old refrigerator which I think was a terrific idea. I had so much trouble with that in the beginning but I love it, it's my best friend now.

How did you and Harry celebrate your nominations?

Kelli - We don't have a show on Tuesday nights so we went to Tower Records to launch the CDs (Harry on Broadway: Act 1, which includes both the cast recordings of The Pajama Game, and Thou Shalt Not) which was exciting.

Were you pleased with how they turned out?

Harry – I love it, I think it's great and it came out really, really well.

Kelli – I'm very happy also, I'm really proud of it and very glad to be on it.

So you celebrated at Tower Records?

Harry – I think after Kelli had a party and I went home and went to bed!

Kelli – I went to a party at my agency and then went to bed.

Harry – I went to bed early since I knew I had to get up early today so we'll celebrate another day.

Harry - how did your girls react?

Harry – They were very excited, they were up and around and running around the house very excited which was nice to see. They got as enthusiastic as I do.

Looking back Harry was associated with the show from day 1, how did Kelli become involved?

Kelli –I heard that it was coming, and right away when they were having auditions I said that 'I had to be seen for this, and right away!' I don't think honestly that they agreed. So I called in twice, and I got the audition. I was in the first round, and then a lot of time passed and from there I had 3 call backs and finally got the part.

How has your relationship grown over the length of the show's run?

Harry – It's been great, I felt real comfortable with Kelli on stage since the first day of rehearsal. As things go on you find nuances, things gel and it really develops its own kind of rhythm. It's simple and it's great when it gels.

Is any part of the show your favorite?

Harry - I don't really have a favorite – I like it when the curtain goes up, because you know that it's going to start, and you're off and running. I think that if you start having favorite scenes then when that scene is over and done everything starts to fail. I try to find pleasure even in the mundane scenes. In the scene where I'm trying to fix that sewing machine and I'm not really talking, I still want to fix that darn sewing machine and I try very hard to every night.

Have you given any thoughts to possibly doing another show together in the future?

Harry – I'd do anything with this girl.

Kelli – Absolutely, yes…

How do you feel about the show coming back, with other people doing your roles?

Harry - I hadn't really thought about it. Whoever does it, is I'm sure going to be great in it and that's the great thing about theatre - different people can interpret it. When the material is so sound, different people can interpret it in different ways, and the show can succeed.

We keep joking that Kelli and I, when the show opens, will be sitting together in the front row with little notepads.

Kelli – Absolutely, reviewing it!

Having won so many other awards through your music career, how much weight to you put on the Tonys?

Harry – As much as I respect the Tonys and stuff because I find awards to be such a great thing I don't think about them too much. If you win you win, and if you don't win then you don't win. So, I always look at awards as I don't know – those aren't real indications of anything that's that important to me. It's not part of the journey. Take the poster of the show, that's something that's important to me. I don't plan on winning anyhow so I'm not worried about it.

So you don't have a bookcase of awards then?

Harry - Nah, I think some previous awards are in my kids rooms, some I don't even know where.

Kelli – I don't have anywhere nice enough to put them. I need a grand piano or a mantel or something. If I did win, I'd maybe give it to my parents, and they'd put it on their mantel.

Will they be here for the awards?

Kelli - Yes, they were here last year and they'll be here again this year for the awards.

Any thoughts yet on what you'll be performing on the Tonys?

Harry – I want to do something with Kelli, but we're going to start meeting about that today.

Kelli – I think they should do "Hernando's Hideaway", but I'm not in that. When you're a nominee though, it's hard to get up, and get your wig and makeup on, do the performance, then get all that off and back to your seat so part of me is thinking – let them do a number without me!

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