BWW Review: Kelli O'Hara Captivates in Concert at the Kristin Chenoweth Theatre in Broken Arrow
What a dream, just Kelli and a piano - accompanied by her longtime arranger and music director Dan Lipton. Ms. O'Hara offered a truly generous concert, performing almost twenty songs over the span of nearly two hours, without an intermission.
Simply stunning in a shimmery, metallic dress, she opened the night with "I Have Dreamed" from THE KING AND I - a song her Tony-winning character did not sing in the show, but one Ms. O'Hara remarked she was envious of as she listened every night, "so I wanted to sing it myself...and now I can. Ha!"
She continued the evening by offering highlights fans have come to expect from her Broadway career - classic gems from her revivals: "A Wonderful Guy" from SOUTH PACIFIC, "So In Love" from KISS ME, KATE, and "Getting To Know You" from THE KING AND I (even inviting the audience to sing along with her in that tune), to intoxicating solos from her original musicals: the title song from THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA and "To Build A Home" from THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.
To state it candidly: Kelli's voice melts you, heart and soul. I challenge anyone to find another Broadway performer who could top her level technical precision and mastery of her instrument - the effortless stratospheric high notes in her soprano contrast with the luscious, silky texture of her mix and chest voice. Yet it wasn't only her vocals that blossomed that evening, but her wacky sense of humor and open-hearted banter with the audience. The man sitting next to me whispered "She's so genuine..." Indeed she is; Ms. O'Hara undoubtedly possesses one of the clearest, crystalline voices of any singer today, yet it was her honesty, vulnerability, and sincerity that truly moved the audience to an immediate standing ovation at the end of the night.
A couple songs that stood out to me were Sondheim's valentine to the grime and grit of New York City - "What More Do I Need" from SATURDAY NIGHT - and a song written specifically for Ms. O'Hara - "That's How I Say Goodbye" from SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS - which wound up being cut during previews; what a delight for Kelli to share this unknown treasure with us.
She performed a few of her "man songs" as she called them - tunes originally sung by men in their shows; Ms. O'Hara brought newfound life and excitement to the title tune from SHE LOVES ME (now "He Loves Me"), while her rendition of "This Nearly Was Mine" from SOUTH PACIFIC balanced heartbreaking regret with assured vitality.
Alluding to Ms. O'Hara's amiability - Kelli sang a selection of simple yet deeply personal songs: "The Sun Went Out," written by her husband Greg Naughton (and performed on Kelli's first album Wonder In The World), and two songs Kelli wrote herself for each of her children: "I Love You The World" for her son Owen, and "She Sings" for her daughter Charlotte. One could easily hear sniffles heard around the auditorium after these sweet, sincere songs.
She closed out the evening with a few alarmingly distinct choices, each showing new levels of range and skill. Beginning with the emotionally epic Edith Piaf torch song "La Vie En Rose," Kelli contrasted that with the hilarious "They Don't Let You In The Opera" - written especially for her by music director Dan Lipton to showcase both her comedic chops and coloratura virtuosity. Finally she closed out the night with the pure, lovely "Make Someone Happy" from DO RE MI; I consider this song, both the choice to sing it and her performance itself, to be the truest testament of Ms. O'Hara's character - her magnetic performance of the lyrics "Where's the real stuff in life to cling to? Love is the answer" permeated the hearts of her audience in a profound and meaningful way.
But a concert is not complete until its encore! Knowing she was back home, Kelli lead the audience in a rousing singalong of our state song, the title song from OKLAHOMA! But that wasn't all; she charmed us all with one final showstopper, "I Could Have Danced All Night" from MY FAIR LADY ... and bringing the perfect evening to conclusion, Kelli chose to option up to one final, clarion High C.
In short, Kelli O'Hara doesn't disappoint...ever. Brava!
Photo credit: say.org
ABOUT Kelli O'Hara:
Stage and screen star Kelli O'Hara has established herself as one of Broadway's greatest leading ladies. Her portrayal of Anna Leonowens in The King and I garnered her the 2015 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, along with Grammy, Drama League, Outer Critics, and Oliver nominations. She reprised the role while making her West End debut, and performed a limited engagement at Tokyo's Orb Theatre.
Kelli also received an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Katie Bonner in the hit web series The Accidental Wolf. Other film and television credits include the second season of Netflix's 13 Reasons Why, All The Bright Places, Peter Pan Live!, Sex & The City 2, Martin Scorsese's The Key to Reserva, Showtime's Masters of Sex, CBS All Access' The Good Fight, Blue Bloods, N3mbers, and the animated series Car Talk.
Other Broadway credits include Kiss Me, Kate (Tony, Drama League, OCC nominations), The Bridges of Madison County (Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, OCC nominations), Nice Work If You Can Get It (Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, OCC nominations), South Pacific (Tony, Drama Desk, OCC nominations), The Pajama Game (Tony, Drama Desk, OCC nominations), The Light in the Piazza (Tony, Drama Desk nominations), Sweet Smell of Success, Follies, Dracula, and Jekyll & Hyde. She was awarded the prestigious Drama League's Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award in 2019.
In 2015, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in Lehár's The Merry Widow and returned as Despina in Mozart's Così fan tutte. Her concerts have gained international acclaim, spanning from Carnegie Hall to Tokyo. She is a frequent performer on PBS's live telecasts, The Kennedy Center Honors and performs often alongside The New York Philharmonic.
Along with two Grammy nominations, her solo albums, Always and Wonder in the World, are available on Ghostlight Records.
ABOUT THE BROKEN ARROW PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
With a professional and exciting atmosphere, the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center is the cornerstone of the arts district in downtown Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and continues to be the premier venue for major performances from across the nation.
With its doors opening in the summer of 2009, the BAPAC started on the right track in bringing Broadway tours, pop concerts, speciality shows and various other events to the area, while also acting as the official location for Broken Arrow Public Schools fine arts programs.