Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: KELLI O'HARA is a Dazzling Kickoff to The Diamond Series at 54 Below

pixeltracker

Kelli O'Hara Brings Star Power to 54 Below Sep. 28- Oct. 3

BWW Review: KELLI O'HARA is a Dazzling Kickoff to The  Diamond Series at 54 Below

There is no doubt about it, Kelli O'Hara is Broadway royalty. In addition to winning the Tony Award for The King and I, she has been nominated for 6 other Tonys and an Emmy for her work on The Accidental Wolf. She has thrilled Broadway audiences in Kiss Me Kate, The Bridges of Madison County. Nice Work If You Can Get It, South Pacific, The Light In the Piazza, Dracula, The Sweet Smell of Success, and Jekyll & Hyde. A true crossover artist she has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in The Merry Widow and Cosi Fan Tutte. It is safe to say Kelli O'Hara is Broadway's go-to leading lady.

So when Feinstein's 54 Below decided to kick off a special Diamond Series of concert events, Kelli O'Hara was the first name on the list. The Diamond Series is four weeks of concerts by major Broadway stars between now and February. In addition to O'Hara, the series will include shows by Laura Benanti, Megan Hilty, and Jennifer Holliday. The series switches up 54 Below's usual format of 2 shows a night to present one artist with an all-inclusive, three-course gourmet meal, hor's d'oeuvres, and champagne specially curated for the evening's show. The entire package is included in the price of the show.

The food at 54 Below is always wonderful, but for this series, they have really pulled out all the stops. The menu has been created by Consulting Chef Harold Dieterle, winner of Season 1 of Top Chef, and presided over by Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Mecca. Fish, chicken, pork, and vegetarian options are available and the desserts are worth writing home about. The staff at 54 Below have somehow amped up their normally terrific service. The whole evening was remarkably special. I imagine it's what it must have felt like in the days when the smart set frequented The Stork Club or El Morroco.BWW Review: KELLI O'HARA is a Dazzling Kickoff to The  Diamond Series at 54 Below

Ms. O'Hara was, of course, magnificent. Hers is one of the most beautiful voices on Broadway today, probably ever. Her musicianship is unparalleled. She is a great actress without being fussy about it. For all her star power, she still seems like the girl next door. She brings a typhoon of passion to everything she does, inviting her audience to share in that deep well of emotion. You leave any performance by Kelli O'Hara feeling more hopeful, more alive, more human.

BWW Review: KELLI O'HARA is a Dazzling Kickoff to The  Diamond Series at 54 Below

It's a special event when your cabaret show starts with an overture. Musical director Dan Lipton led an amazing band in a medley of some of O'Hara's biggest hits. Kelli O'Hara opened unexpectedly with a song made famous by the Great Gonzo in The Muppet Movie. She performed "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" with a sense of wonder at being back in front of a live audience. She combined it with Sondheim's "What More Do I Need?" She continued with another Sondheim, "Take Me to the World," which she dedicated to her teacher and mentor Florence Birdwell, who recently passed away. She dusted off an obscure Vincent Youman's song "Without You" and gave it a wonderfully modern treatment.

BWW Review: KELLI O'HARA is a Dazzling Kickoff to The  Diamond Series at 54 Below

You know you're a big star when Jason Robert Brown drops by to play piano for you. He was the first of several impressive guests to show up. Together they sang his beautiful tune "To Build a Home' from The Bridges of Madison County. She then premiered a gorgeous new song by Marcy Heisler & Zina Goldrich, "Wish on a Thousand Stars." She showed her comic chops in "Not Funny," which purports that sopranos cannot be funny. She found an interesting way to do a mashup by putting together two songs that have the same name. It was a very clever medley of the jazz standard "All of Me" combined with the John Legend song of the same name.

BWW Review: KELLI O'HARA is a Dazzling Kickoff to The  Diamond Series at 54 Below

She welcomed her second guest, fellow Tony winner for The King and I, Ruthie Ann Miles. They sang my favorite tune of the evening, Dave Yazbeck's "Answer Me" from The Band's Visit. The technique and commitment of these two amazing women together was glorious. Kelli O'Hara told us that during the run of The Light in the Piazza that she told Adam Guettel that she had an idea for a musical for herself and Brian d'Arcy James. He's been at work on it and she premiered a song from The Days of Wine and Roses, "There Go I." We should all look forward to the future of this project. She honored Brian d'Arcy James by singing one of his songs from The Wild Party. Her rendition of "What Is It About Her?" was a bravura moment.BWW Review: KELLI O'HARA is a Dazzling Kickoff to The  Diamond Series at 54 Below

Her next guests were decidedly close to home. She was joined on "The Lonesome Road" by her husband and father-in-law Greg and James Naughton. They did an a cappella version of James Taylor's plaintive song. She announced a last-minute addition to the concert. It was a medley of two songs from Bo Burnham's Netflix Special. "Welcome to the Internet" and "A White Woman's Instagram" brought the house down with mirth.

For the finale, she welcomed back Jason Robert Brown for "Love Is Always Better" from The Bridges of Madison County. At the end of the number, we heard a disembodied male voice. It turned out to be none other than her Bridges co-star Stephen Pasquale. Together with JRB, they performed the entirety of "Before and After You/ One Second and a Million Miles." It was a perfect ending to an evening of wondrous singing, delicious food, and an amiable atmosphere. Bravo, 54 Below, and Brava, Kelli O'Hara!

BWW Review: KELLI O'HARA is a Dazzling Kickoff to The  Diamond Series at 54 Below

Kelli O'Hara continues performances in 54 Below's Diamond Series Sep. 29- Oct. 3. Doors open at 5:30, show at 8:30. For tickets and information go to 54below.com. To learn more about Kelli O'Hara, visit kelliohoara.com or follow her @kelliohara on Twitter and Instagram.


Related Articles View More Cabaret Stories

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

From This Author Ricky Pope