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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Kelli O'Hara joins some Wonderful Guys for
Seattle Men's Chorus' Holiday Glee

Kelli O'Hara
Kelli O'Hara
In what has become a tradition, Seattle Men's Chorus' initial two performances of their holiday concert, this year entitled Holiday Glee (three guesses where the "Glee" part came in) is headlined by a Broadway diva. Following in the estimable heels of Jennifer Holliday in 2008, and Betty Buckley last year, this season's special guest is Tony Award nominated Broadway vet Kelli O'Hara. Familiar to Puget Sound audiences from the world premiere pre-Broadway staging of The Light in the Piazza at Intiman Theatre, Ms. O'Hara was so busy in rehearsals for the about to open Encores! concert production of Bells Are Ringing that this Q&A could only take place over the Internet—but her delightful personality shines through even in those circumstances.

David-Edward Hughes:  Looking forward to having you here with SMC this holiday season, Kelli. What sort of songs will you be doing? Will we hear some of the songs you've sung on Broadway, mostly holiday fare or a little of both?

Kelli O'Hara:  Definitely a little of both. "Wonderful Guy" is on the list from South Pacific, and a favorite of mine called "They Don't Let You in the Opera if You're a Country Star," mixed in with the holiday fare, of course.

DEH:  You're just days away from playing Ella Peterson in the Encores! Bells Are Ringing. Ella is the most comic role you've yet tackled in New York. Are you excited to display a different facet of yourself as well as singing the great Comden/Green/Styne standards?

KOH:  I am very excited by this new adventure. The great thing about this piece is that the comedy is all there, right in the writing. All I have to do is show up, do my best not to be a cartoon character (because although funny, I feel all my characters should have some heart), and live in Ella's shoes for a while. She is definitely a fun girl.

DEH:  You completed a long run in Lincoln Center's South Pacific a few weeks back. What was the most satisfying aspect of the production for you?

KOH:  When I perform, my husband always tells me to "spread the joy." In South Pacific I somehow felt we were doing that. It's very satisfying to see an audience so happy and moved at times. That's a gift.

DEH:  We're you happy with the way the show was captured for TV's "Live From Lincoln Center"?

KOH:  To be honest, I haven't seen all of it (I hate watching myself), but what I have seen I think is very well done. With the amount of cameras, lighting and angles, I think they definitely "got in there" and gave a more intimate viewing, and that's what we wanted. I was so pleased to get to do it since I was unable to do The Light in the Piazza recording due to my schedule at The Pajama Game.

DEH:  I had the great good fortune to see you in Sweet Smell of Success. It was a fascinating, dark-hued show, and I loved what you did in the role of Susan. What special memories do you have of that show?

KOH:  Wow. I love hearing that! It was very special for many reasons: It was the first role I ever created, and I worked with amazing people like John Lithgow and Brian d'Arcy James, etc. I learned a lot from them.

DEH:  Seattle last saw you as Franca, the sister-in-law in the premiere pre- Broadway run of The Light in the Piazza. That must have been quite a journey, going from a supporting role to the pivotal role of Clara by the time the show got to Broadway.

KOH:  It was a huge transition, both creatively and emotionally. It was very hard in some ways and amazing in many ways. It was a very quick transition, unfortunately, but I am so very grateful for it. I couldn't have done it without Vicki Clark.

DEH:  In between your runs in South Pacific you and your husband Greg Naughton had a baby boy named Owen. I'm thinking he is your first child? How is it working out being a working mom? Does he like it when you sing to him, and what are his musical preferences?

KOH:  Yes, Owen is our first. He is amazing! Being a working mom is very hard because I never want to leave him, not for second. But we're making it work. Greg and I are a good team. Owen loves music of any kind, and he thinks it's funny when I sing (he used to cry). Overall, he's definitely a lover of his Dad's music ("The Sweet Remains"). He loves listening to Greg play guitar and piano and sing. Sometimes he joins in.

DEH:  What's next career-wise after Bells?

KOH:  Lots of fun things ... to be revealed later.

DEH:  Do you and your Piazza and South Pacific co-star, Matthew Morrison hope to work together on "Glee" sometime?

KOH:  I think we'd both love that!


Holiday Glee with Special Guest Star Kelli O'Hara plays Saturday November 27 at 8pm and Sunday November 28 at 2pm at Benaroya Hall 3rd & Union in downtown Seattle. For ticket information, online reservations and a complete listing of additional performances, go to www.flyinghouse.org.

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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