Outlook 2013: Oklahoma native Kelli O’Hara is in demand for New York musical theater projects

After spending a year in the Broadway production of “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Oklahoma native Kelli O’Hara heads into rehearsals for musical productions of “Far From Heaven” and “The Bridges of Madison County.”

BY RICK ROGERS Published: April 28, 2013
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Having earned Tony Award nominations for her roles in “The Light in the Piazza,” “The Pajama Game,” “South Pacific” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kelli O’Hara, who was born in Elk City and raised in Edmond, has become one of the brightest lights on Broadway.

To achieve that level of celebrity is even more impressive given the enormously competitive nature of the New York musical theater scene.

With her gorgeous voice and stunning good looks, O’Hara has become in such high demand that she rarely has to worry about future projects.

After spending the past year appearing opposite Matthew Broderick in the Broadway production of “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” followed by a concert version of “Carousel” with baritone Nathan Gunn and the New York Philharmonic, the Oklahoma native is preparing to start rehearsals for “Far From Heaven,” a musical set to open May 8 at Playwrights Horizons.

Based on the 2002 film starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert, the musical version of “Far From Heaven” features a score by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie (“Grey Gardens”). It’s the story of a 1950s-era Connecticut housewife who faces a marital crisis and mounting racial tensions in the outside world.

“This has been a project I’ve been involved with for several years now,” O’Hara said recently. “We did it at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (in far northwestern Massachusetts) last summer, and word quickly got out that it was very interesting. People were very curious to see it. It’s a show that I’ve become really passionate about.

“When you’re in this business, you wait for some really great composers to say they’re writing something for you. Scott and Michael have written a beautiful role for me, and I’m so flattered to be a part of this project.”

In an interview posted on the Playwrights Horizons’ website, the creators were asked how they came to be interested in turning “Far From Heaven” into a musical. Korie responded that, “In New York, it’s always the right time for a musical about repressed homosexuality, spousal abuse and racial politics,” adding that his goal was “to create musicals about the America we live in but without making it obvious.”