O'Hara has been nominated for three Tony Awards, for Pajama Game, The Light in the Piazza and South Pacific. She has appeared in seven Broadway shows including the flop shows Sweet Smell of Success and Dracula but also in Jekyll and Hyde and the revival of Follies.
Kelli starts her new cd off with a rousing "What More Do I Need?" from Sondheim's Saturday Night that has a pulse pounding beat and a beautiful jazzy arrangement. She follows this with a slowed down take on "Something Wonderful" from The King and I. It is a nice version of the song, but unfortunately has a somewhat abrupt ending. Floyd Collin's "When Glory Goes" is a soaring song that has been included in many contemporary musical theatre solo cd's. Kelli doesn't push the song, but let's her voice simply allow the song to soar. "He Loves Me" from She Loves Me gives O'Hara a chance to let her voice portray pure joy and excitement, something she is easily capable of doing. The title track "Always" has a jazzy, slow and simple arrangement but effectively gets across the eternal love message of this Irving Berlin classic song. "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George is one of my most favorite Sondheim songs. This version is, I think, the first one I've heard with a small arrangement instead of the usual lush one you hear on the cast recording or the various concerts where this has been performed and recorded. I have to say that the smaller arrangement takes nothing away from the song, and actually allows O'Hara's voice to effectively get the message behind the words across extremely well. The song becomes more of an inner monologue then the somewhat loud and forced version It also gives her a nice way to show x and xx. In the recent revival of South Pacific, Kelli played the role of Nelli but on her cd she gives us a beautiful version of a song she didn't get to sing in that show, "This Nearly Was Mine." It has a nice waltzy arrangement with some beautiful violin work that gains speed along the way but ends in a simple and effective quiet way. O'Hara really shows off her range on this selection.
O'Hara includes some contemporary songs as well including "Once I Was" which is a song by Ricky Ian Gordon. While some of Gordon's songs I've heard before are disjointed poems, this one has a nice melody and lyric and Kelli sounds great on it. "Another Life" is a new song by Jason Robert Brown from his musical version of The Bridges of Madison County. It is a beautiful character song with a lovely arrangement. "They Don't Let You in the Opera (If You're a Country Star)" is a very humorous cabaret song that perfectly plays into O'Hara's actual story where she was an aspiring opera singer from the south and was actually a student of the same famed Oklahoma City University voice teacher who had previously taught Kristin Chenoweth. This song was co-written by Dan Lipton who also serves as the music director of the cd and the song gives Kelli plenty of opportunities to show off her wide vocal range as well as opera and county song styles. "You're Always Here" has a lovely contemporary lyric with a driving arrangement that perfectly builds and compliments O'Hara and the point of the song.
Kelli ends the cd with two showtunes, first she delivers a heartfelt version of "The Party's Over" from Bells are Ringing and closes out the cd with "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady which she expertly delivers with her rich and full soprano voice. It is nice to hear her sing a song from this show since she got great notices for her performance in the concert staging of this show that she did with Kelsey Grammer at the NY Philharmonic four years ago.
Kelli's official website