After a year of performing her cabaret act in various New York venues, three-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza) wanted a record of her endeavors. “I was selling my old album [at performances], which didn’t really represent the [current] show so I said, ‘Let’s just go in and record it so we have this little memory of where we are in time,’” O’Hara told Broadway.com, “then of course once you get involved, you get so passionate and it becomes a much bigger deal.” The result? O’Hara’s new solo album, Always, which hits stores May 31.
Unlike O’Hara’s first solo effort, Wonder in the World, the new album is mostly composed of classic showtunes and standards. “I hadn’t really made a theater album for theater fans aside from original cast recordings,” she said of her song selections. O’Hara even decided to do a little gender-bending on the album by tackling several songs traditionally sung by men. “I haven’t heard a lot of recordings of women singing these songs. It just seemed like something a little different to do.”
Among the “male” songs O’Hara selected is “This Nearly Was Mine,” one she heard her South Pacific co-star Paulo Szot perform eight times a week during her time in the Tony-winning revival at Lincoln Center. “It’s so big and powerful,” she said of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. “As much as I loved playing [Ensign Nellie Forbush], I was singing the more fun, lighthearted songs, so you just get hungry for the opposite.”
To celebrate Always’ release O’Hara will take the stage for a solo concert at New York’s iconic The Town Hall on June 3. “It’s going to be fun,” she said of the evening. “I love talking as myself and not having to play a character. I feel so close to this music so I’ll be throwing in some extra things to make the concert really personal, including some surprise guests.”
While O’Hara is enjoying her time as a soloist, she hopes to return to the musical stage soon and is currently working on three original projects. While the actress remained mum on details, there’s one show she definitely is not involved with: the Broadway-bound revival of Funny Girl. “That’s ridiculous,” she says of recent casting rumors. “I’m the furthest thing from Fanny Brice! [Director Bartlett Sher] and I are in touch every week and we laughed about that. I’m nowhere near what he sees for it, and I would never consider it.”