Kelli O’Hara makes her Aspen debut at Theatre Aspen’s Celebrity Concert Series |

Kelli O’Hara makes her Aspen debut at Theatre Aspen’s Celebrity Concert Series

Shannon Asher
The Aspen Times

Seven-time Tony Award nominee Kelli O’Hara makes her Aspen debut Monday at Theatre Aspen’s Celebrity Concert Series featuring some of Broadway’s most talented leading ladies. O’Hara will perform Monday (9:30 p.m.) and Tuesday (7:00 p.m.).

“There’s been some joy in the creativity that’s happened with regards to the arts during this unprecedented time,” O’Hara said during a recent phone interview from her home in Connecticut.

“We just did a concert for two nights at The Berkshire Theater Group in a very similar seating situation with an outdoor tent,” O’Hara said. “Fifty people, all wearing masks, socially distanced, and it actually felt really good.”

“It was interesting to look out onto the crowd of masked people. You couldn’t see the reactions, but I knew they were there, and I knew that they seemed to be enjoying themselves — but it was a different sort of experience. I’m very grateful to be making music with live people, musicians and a live audience.”

The Celebrity Concert Series, which started July 27 and runs through Aug. 11, will showcase the careers and personal journeys of four well-known Broadway stars including Beth Malone, Carolee Carmello, Audra McDonald and O’Hara.

“For me, it’ll be my longtime pianist of 16 years and myself,” O’Hara said. “He and I have been doing it for a long time. My journey with music first starts back in the beginning of my life. I sing songs from my Broadway shows, songs that I’ve written, songs that my husband has written. I try to really mix it up as it’s not just musical theater.”

Having grown up in western Oklahoma, O’Hara wasn’t raised around music and theater, although she always knew she was passionate about the arts. “I was always watching movie musicals as a kid, and I was about 10 the first time I ever sang a song in front of a crowd. I don’t know why, but I remember that I loved it.”

After graduating from Oklahoma City University, O’Hara went on to have a very successful career in New York City.

O’Hara won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Anna Leonowens in “The King and I.” She also received Tony Award nominations for her performances in “The Light in the Piazza,” “The Pajama Game,” “South Pacific,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “The Bridge of Madison County” and “Kiss Me Kate.”

All of the shows presented by Theatre Aspen this summer will be performed in a modified Hurst Theatre Tent to ensure all rules around the COVID-19 pandemic are met. The seating has been significantly decreased and the sides of the tent will be open when weather allows for it. Masks are, of course, required and hand sanitizer will be made readily available.

“I’ve always thought of singing as being a service to people,” O’Hara said. “That’s how I began to sing. Rather than on stages, I started out by singing in weddings or events where my voice was intended to uplift people.

“So, at a time like this when it’ll probably be the first time people are gathering again in this way to hear something like this, I think it’s a real responsibility I have to share with them my personal story,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara strives to make her performance topical and present, but also hopes to bring some escape and joy to people about what it means to immerse in the arts and music itself.