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Kelli O’Hara: Kiss Kate Goodbye

Last Sunday marked the end of The Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Kiss Me Kate. The production closed its run with the best week of its entire run, filling Studio 54 to 99.7% capacity and grossing $828,224 at the box office. The latest revival of Cole Porter’s musical comedy received four Tony nominations including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical for leading lady Kelli O’Hara. With seven Tony nominations – including a win for 2015’s The King and I – O’Hara is Broadway royalty and one of the many great Strasberg alumni working today. 

In an interview for The Hollywood Reporter’s podcast, Awards Chatter, O’Hara recounts the evolution of her career. Originally an opera major at Oklahoma City University, she transitions from opera to acting wanting to “stretch that muscle more deeply.” 

“I didn’t want to just concentrate on a beautiful sound – I don’t even care. I just want to wrench my heart out a little bit.” After moving to New York, O’Hara began taking classes at Strasberg where she “continued the drama study that I started in college.”

O’Hara’s acknowledges that many of her opportunities stem from her ingénue appearance. Throughout her career, she’s fought to redefine the ingénue by finding different shades in the characters. 2008’s revival of South Pacific saw O’Hara play the role of Nellie Forbush, a “bigoted-racist” ingénue that “was wrong”. With Kate, O’Hara highlights the strength in Kate and Lilli that typically is ignored in the ingénue “just because a woman is angry and has things to say, does not make her a shrew. It also means that she has a voice.” 

“I need to feel deeply and heavenly all the time,” says O’Hara, “that’s what this does for me and I don’t care what it is as long as I’m performing.” Going back to wrenching her heart onstage, O’Hara explains, “When I’m not singing from a place of emotion – when I’m thinking technically – I fail myself every day. If I just use what I’m feeling that day to sing my songs, I will tell a true story.”

Alumni News is written by NYU Tisch at Strasberg alumnus Christian Masinsin. If you are an alum and have a story you think should be featured, please email [email protected].

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