Tony winners Kelli O’Hara, Adrienne Warren bring ‘Broadway in the Park’ to Wolf Trap

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Kelli O'Hara at Wolf Trap (Part 1)

Do you already miss the Tonys? You can still enjoy Broadway next week at Wolf Trap.

Tony winners Kelli O’Hara and Adrienne Warren bring “Broadway in the Park” on June 24.

“We’re going to sing great Broadway tunes,” O’Hara told WTOP. “We’re going to sing together and separately and I think we’re going to have wonderful choruses singing with us. It’s going to be one of those nights that feels like we’re all back together and celebrating art. I really can’t wait.”

O’Hara will sing songs from her Tony-winning role in “The King and I,” while Warren will sing songs from her Tony-winning role in “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” You’ll also hear plenty of other Broadway show tunes from other musicals, as well as a few cool surprises.

“We’re going to sing a song together that might be unusual,” O’Hara said. “I don’t want to give it away, but we’re going to sing a song that wouldn’t necessarily be expected. We sung it one time before together and I love it. It’s from a newer musical on Broadway a couple years ago that neither of us did, sung by a man, but we’ve made it into a duet.”

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1976, O’Hara grew up more interested in opera.

“I grew up in this little town in western Oklahoma and didn’t visit New York until I was 21 years old,” O’Hara said. “My parents moved to the middle of the state and I went to college [at Oklahoma City University], then I moved to New York to go to acting school after I got an opera degree, so I’m sort of all over the place … but that led me to Broadway.”

Her early stage roles included the national tour of “Jekyll & Hyde,” followed by Broadway roles in “Follies” (2001), “Sweet Smell of Success” (2002) and “Dracula, the Musical” (2004) before earning her first Tony nomination in “The Light in the Piazza” (2005).

“I worked on it five years total with leading men like Steven Pasquale and finally Matthew Morrison, who we know from ‘Glee,’ and my wonderful Victoria Clark,” O’Hara said. “That show really cemented my love of the craft. … When I got that first Tony nomination, I was pinching [myself], I couldn’t believe it, I was gobsmacked that it was even happening.”

She earned her second Tony nomination in “The Pajama Game” (2006).

“‘The Pajama Game’ was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life,” O’Hara said. “I could have done it forever. Harry Connick Jr. did something different on stage every night. … People like Michael McKean just made that show come alive. We had the most amazing dancers, Kathleen Marshall choreography and direction, it was a joy.”

A third Tony nomination came for her revival of “South Pacific” (2008).

“It was my second show with Bart Sher,” O’Hara said. “I worked opposite the awesome Paulo Szot and again Matthew Morrison. It felt like a deeper project for me, it had more of a moral tone. Even though it is a musical comedy, it had a great subject matter as far as racism, we studied World War II, all that history … it just felt personal and educational.”

Her fourth Tony nomination came in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (2012).

“That was such a gift to me,” O’Hara said. “It was this wonderful book by Joe DiPietro, again directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, but it put me with Matthew Broderick, which just gave me laughs every night, and then other people like Chris Sullivan, who became one of my best friends, we all know him as Toby in ‘This Is Us.'”

She earned her fifth Tony nod in “The Bridges of Madison County” (2014).

“I started with Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman in its very early stages and it paired me with Bart Sher for a third time,” O’Hara said. “I just loved every minute of that. It was a very different role for me, very unlike myself, although it had farm themes, which I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. … It’s the favorite of all my roles that I’ve ever played.”

She finally won on her sixth Tony nomination for “The King and I” (2015).

“To this day, I’ve never seen [the 1956 film],” O’Hara said. “When I knew that I was going to play this role, I didn’t want to watch it. … I don’t want to accidentally steal from something I’ve subconsciously seen. Afterward, I had so married the new version, what it stood for and the changes we made for the times, I didn’t want to go back and watch the old one.”

What was it like standing on the Tony stage receiving the award?

“I was more proud to stand up there and say that I’ve had a career than just that I had won an award,” O’Hara said. “I had built my life by that time, two children. … That Tony Award does cap something in this beautiful way. When I look at it, I think of it as a celebration as not just for the show or the role, but for a lifetime — and I had more to go.”

Indeed, her seventh Tony nomination came for “Kiss Me, Kate” (2019).

“When I saw that on Broadway in ’99 with Marin Mazzie … I thought maybe I can do that someday because I’d love to sing that score and play that strong woman role,” O’Hara said. “We had the best time, laughed and laughed. The next thing I know, the pandemic happened and that’s the last thing I’ve done on Broadway. I’m itching to get back.”

She’s currently developing a stage version of the 1962 film “Days of Wine and Roses.”

“When I was doing ‘Light in the Piazza,’ I’d just done ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ with Brian d’Arcy James. … People would say, ‘You look like Lee Remick and he looks like Jack Lemmon.’ … Finally, we pulled it out again, it’s completed with some of Adam [Guettell’s] best compositions and Craig [Lucas’] best writing. Now we’re just looking for a home for it.”

Until then, you can watch her on the HBO series “The Gilded Age.”

“It does feel more theatrical in nature, it’s a period piece, I’m back in my corset, which I’ve been wearing for 20 years,” O’Hara said. “I’m working with some of the best theatrical greats of my time, people I’ve looked up to my whole life, so that has been one of the biggest gifts, to be in a room with them, working, setting this history of our country.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Kelli O'Hara at Wolf Trap (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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