BWW Review: Seattle Children's Theatre's Gala Sparkles with Kelli O'Hara
Last night musical theatre nerds around the Seattle area may have felt a disturbance in the force as if there was a diva among us. Well, if you did you can take solace in that you were right however unless you were there you certainly missed out as Broadway's Kelli O'Hara killed it during her performance at the Seattle Children's Theatre's fundraising gala.
Yes, Seattle Children's Theatre swankified their theater up last night transforming it into the speakeasy "Places" where staff and guests strutted around in black tie and 1920's inspired gowns. The fundraiser was to benefit the School Children Access Program (SCAP), which serves 60,000 students and teachers in Washington State, annually, and provides all visiting schools free and discounted tickets to weekday matinee performances, educational materials, and resources for their classrooms. And apparently the program and the theater is going strong as they're coming up on their 43nd year for the theater and estimate that they've brought theatrical performances to over 4 million young people.
Some donors (the ones who paid a bunch more) were treated to a sit-down dinner and some even got a meet and greet with Ms. O'Hara herself while the rest of us got to eat, drink, and be merry in the lobby as we breathlessly awaited the performance from one of our icons. Finally, the moment came and we were ushered into the theater where Ms. O'Hara lent her beautiful pipes to a stunning array of old and new, Broadway and not-Broadway.
As expected we got some gems from shows she's done like "South Pacific" or "Light in the Piazza" but she also broke out what she calls her "man songs", songs that are normally sung by men. For example, she switched the pronouns in "She Loves Me" to give us a wonderful rendition of "He Loves Me". Beyond the showtunes, pronoun altered and not, she treated us to a song from her Husband Greg Naughton's band, The Sweet Remains, and an original song from Ms. O'Hara herself dedicated to her son. She also brought up a young woman who's worked her way up through the SCT programs since childhood and is now off to college to study musical theater, Maya McQueen. O'Hara and McQueen gave us a lovely rendition of "Getting to Know You" where McQueen managed to hold her own up against one of the most beautiful voices on Broadway.
But for me, one of the highlights of the evening was when Ms. O'Hara sang a song that somewhat tracked her own journey all about a woman from the south, forced to sing country western when all she wanted to do was sing opera. She works and works and almost gets her shot but then when it's taken away she chooses to get married and have a baby. But then her shot at an opera career comes back around only to have her go into labor in the middle of her performance. Equal parts touching and completely hilarious and O'Hara brought down the house with it.
All and all it was a fabulous evening from SCT and I'm sure they raised quite a bit of money (if the "raise your paddle" donation intermission I witnessed was any indication) to keep the arts alive for young people in the Seattle area. And of course with my three letter rating system I would have to give Ms. O'Hara a rousing YAY. The fundraiser may be over but if you'd like to donate or like more information on Seattle Children's Theatre and all their amazing programs and shows, visit them online at www.sct.org.
Photo credit: Laura Marie Duncan