BWW #TBT CD Reviews: Kelli O'Hara's WONDER IN THE WORLD and ALWAYS are Charismatic
Originally from Oklahoma, Broadway superstar Kelli O'Hara has been thrilling New York audiences as Anna Leonowens in Lincoln Center Theater's Broadway revival of The King and I. While she is busy putting the final touches on this cherished, classic role before the critics take their seats for opening night, I am exploring her charismatic solo albums WONDER IN THE WORLD, a collection of classic tunes arranged and orchestrated by Harry Connick, Jr., and ALWAYS, a collection of music from Broadway shows and gifted musical writers.
WONDER IN THE WORLD, Kelli O'Hara's debut solo album, was released by Ghostlight Records on May 6, 2008. The smoothly intonated and mostly jazz album was recorded a few days after the revival of THE PAJAMA GAME, which starred Harry Connick, Jr. and Kelli O'Hara closed on Broadway. The album seems like the perfect disc to spin for a romantic evening at home or an evening where one might be found sipping a delicate prosecco or a dry but light pinot grigio. The relaxed iterations of songs like "And I Love You So" (Don McLean), "Spooky" (Buddy Buie, James B. Cobb Jr.), and "Fire and Rain" (James Taylor) showcase Kelli O'Hara's earthy and country infused instrument. Tangibly gentle, her vocal timbre is sweetly serene on every track. In this same vein, she works in Broadway showtunes like THE LIGHT IN PIAZZA's "Fable" (Adam Guettel) and The King and I's "I Have Dreamed" (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II). She fills each of the tracks with appropriate emotionality, and lets the appealing tonality of her instrument ensure that listeners get swept away in the beautiful music. Lastly, her original song, "I Love You the World" is heartfelt and one of the albums most memorable tracks.
Ghostlight Records also released her sophomore album, ALWAYS, on May 31, 2011. For this album, Kelli O'Hara masters a different-but still jazzy-approach and showcases her dazzling Broadway belt, operatic skills, and still infuses her country charms when appropriate. The album opens with a boisterous and resplendent version of "What More Do I Need?" (Stephen Sondheim) from SATURDAY NIGHT. This perfectly sung tune sets the tone for the whole album, letting the listener wrap their hearts in the power and gorgeous opulence of Kelli O'Hara's enchanting instrument. Her versions of favorites like "Always" (Irving Berlin), "Finishing the Hat" (Stephen Sondheim), "This Nearly Was Mine" (Richard Rogers, Oscar Hammerstein II), and "I Could Have Dance All Night" (Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner) make this the perfection collection for Broadway enthusiasts and fans of Kelli O'Hara alike. Conversely, "They Don't Let You in the Opera (If You're a Country Star)" (David Rossmer and Dan Lipton) lets her show off some comedic chops and astounding versatility. There is not a bad recording on the album, and this veritable hit list of theatrical favorites is just the kind of thing to put a ton of cheer in your soul.
Don't miss Kelli O'Hara in The King and I at Lincoln Center Theater. It opens tonight, and tickets are currently on sale through July 5, 2015. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.lct.org/shows/king-and-i or call (212) 239-6200. Likewise, you can purchase WONDER IN THE WORLD from Ghostlight Records' online store, iTunes, and Amazon. ALWAYS can also be purchased from Ghostlight Records' online store, iTunes, and Amazon.