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Stage and Screen Actress Paula Kelly Dies at 77

Stage and Screen Actress Paula Kelly Dies at 77

Ebony Repertory Theatre (ERT) and THE FAMILY of Paula Kelly announced today that Emmy-nominated actress, dancer, choreographer and singer, Paula Kelly died on Saturday, February 8, 2020 in Whittier, California from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 77.

Ms. Kelly, named Paula Alma Kelly, was born October 21, 1942 in Jacksonville, Florida, to Ruth and Lehman Kelly. She was one of three daughters.

Her family moved to New York City's Harlem where she was raised. Ms. Kelly attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art. She continued her higher education and graduated from Julliard School of Music, where she earned her M.S. degree under Martha Graham.

As a dancer, Ms. Kelly performed as a soloist for Martha Graham, Donald MacKayle and Alvin Ailey.

Her film credits include: Sweet Charity directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse; The Andromeda Strain,Uptown Saturday Night and Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored, to name a few.

Ms. Kelly received multiple Emmy Award nominations for her work on The Richard Pryor Show, Night Courtand The Women of Brewster Place. Ms. Kelly's other television credits include The Strollin' 20's, which was produced by Sidney Poitier; BBC's presentation of Peter Pan (co-choreography with Michael Kidd); New York, New York with Gene Kelly; and We Love You Madly with Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones.

She graced the stage in countless theatre productions including Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope at the Mark Taper Forum for which she won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for "Best Supporting Actress;" the West Coast Premiere of Sophisticated Ladies opposite Gregory Hines at The Shubert Theatre; and Stevie Wants to Play the Blues directed by Simon Callow at L.A.T.C. In 2009, Ms. Kelly came out of retirement to join the cast of Ebony Repertory Theatre's production of Crowns by Regina Taylor, which played at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center and later moved to Pasadena Playhouse.

"When the staggeringly brilliant Paula Kelly became our first hire for our production of the Los Angeles premiere of Crowns, we immediately knew that we were in store for something extremely special. During rehearsals and in production, she brought her immense triple threat talent, her keen intellect, her great ability to listen, and her abundant generosity to bear on the company every single day. Her unassuming leadership was marked by compassion, elegance and grace. She was a rare and gifted artist, whom we will cherish forever," said Ebony Repertory Theatre, Producing Artistic Director Wren T. Brown.

Paula Kelly is survived by her aunt Pearl Mackey of Jacksonville, Florida; longtime companion George Parkington; her niece Dina McCarthy; her nephew Lehman Brockett, and a host of family and friends.

A celebration of Paula Kelly's life will be held in Los Angeles at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Details to be announced at a later date.

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