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Kelli O’Hara – The Seth Concert Series | Review

I’m not sure whether it’s a good or a bad thing that I’m getting used to the ‘digital show stop’ – in some ways, it’s worse than an in-person ‘show stop’ as there are more distractions at home. Still, the unpredictability of live performance is what it is. It’s still extraordinary how The Seth Concert Series works online, using a program called JamKazam that allows Seth Rudetsky to be playing his piano whilst his star guest sings a showtune in a different state (or even a different country) seamlessly.

Kelli O'Hara - Credit Emilio Madrid
Kelli O’Hara – Credit Emilio Madrid

Kelli O’Hara made her London debut in the Lincoln Center Theater revival production of The King and I, which transferred to the London Palladium in 2018. She returned in 2019 to play two solo concert shows at Cadogan Hall, and may well have returned by now for another visit if it hadn’t been for you-know-what. There may not have been the striking difference in style and tempo from one song to another that became something of a hallmark in some other episodes of this concert series, particularly when two songs from the Jason Robert Brown musical The Bridges of Madison County featured one after the other. But versatility is still the name of the game, in a programme that included ‘Think of Me’ from The Phantom of the Opera, and ‘Both Sides, Now’, made famous by Joni Mitchell (or, indeed, if it’s your point of reference, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert The Musical).

I rather liked it that there were songs from shows lesser-known to contemporary audiences – her go-to audition song, for instance, is ‘Somebody, Somewhere’ from the 1956 Frank Loesser musical The Most Happy Fella, not seen in the West End since 1960. O’Hara is very much a class act – goofy stories about on-stage mishaps and elongated audition processes are set aside for more poignant recollections, such as a man she once sang for in a restaurant being so moved by her performance that his family wanted her to sing at his funeral after he unexpectedly passed some years later. I trust it’s not too much of a spoiler to add that she obliged.

O’Hara also has a way of discussing the current political climate in the United States without getting too preachy or partisan, whilst still making her views known, calmly and reasonably. One is almost tempted to put forward the idea that she should run for political office, but the loss to the theatre world would be too great. Of familiarity to her fanbase, and beautifully reprised here, is a song written for her by Dan Lipton and Lawrence Manchester, called ‘They Don’t Let You in the Opera (If You’re A Country Star)’, an epic tale of a woman born in Georgia but raised in Tennessee who was rejected by New York opera companies on account of her country twang. The story has a happy (and, therefore, some would say, unoperatic) ending thanks to an amusing twist.

It was good to get to know some of the characters O’Hara has taken on, even without having seen some of the productions themselves. A fine elegance permeated this concert, combined with rare qualities (these days, anyway) of wisdom and humility.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Kelli O’Hara starred most recently in the Broadway revival of Kiss Me Kate, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. On Broadway, Kelli’s portrayal of Anna Leonowens in the critically acclaimed revival of The King and I garnered her the 2015 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, along with Grammy, Drama League and Outer Critics nominations. She then reprised her Tony-winning role while making her West End debut for which The Times hailed her as “Broadway musical’s undisputed queen” adding “Kelli O’Hara does not just play Anna, she owns the part”.

KELLI O’HARA with SETH RUDETSKY
Sunday, January 17th at 8PM EST
Monday, January 18th at 3PM EST
https://thesethconcertseries.com/

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