Getting to know BYU: Tony award winner performs in HFAC


Broadway sensation and Tony award winner Kelli O’Hara performed live at BYU in the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center on Friday Sep 4, 2015.

Jaren Wilkey (BYU)
Kelli O’Hara, a Tony award winner, critiques a vocal class at BYU. The class is part of a master series that features other prominent performers as teachers. (BYU)

O’Hara told the story of her life through songs by well known composers such as Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin, and Rogers and Hammerstein. She also sang her own songs and one written by her husband, Greg Naughton, with whom she has two children.

Oklahoma native O’hara showed pride and shared gratitude for her roots during the concert, specifically for her grandfather, who dropped out of school to farm.

“One thing I know about my opportunities is people gave up a lot so that I could have some,” O’Hara said.

She also made it clear that her family comes first and said she never wanted to lose sight of that.

“My family actually makes my art better,” O’Hara said.

Her family-focused attitude earned the admiration of BYU’s seniors in the Music Dance Theater (MDT) department.

Twyla Wilson, MDT senior, had the opportunity to sing in front of the Tony Award Winner during her masterclass. She later praised O’Hara’s good nature.

“She’s basically the sweetest lady ever,” Wilson said.

Adjunct professor and producer Jeff Martin said that O’Hara conducted the masterclass the day before the performance and couched six students previously selected by the MDT Committee. He said the committee tried to pick seniors who had not sung in a masterclass before and who would represent the MDT program well. He also said everyone benefitted from the class, including the teacher.

“It reminded her to appreciate what she has achieved,” Martin said.

The six students who sang the prepared musical numbers for the class impressed the Broadway actress. Professor Lockwood, a teacher for MDT seniors, said O’Hara was happy with the students’ storytelling and how open they were to learning.

BYU reminded O’Hara of her alma mater, Oklahoma City University, where she graduated in vocal performance.

“It’s like an island where you just get to focus on your craft and you’re shut out from the politics of this business,” O’Hara said in the concert.

She even showed respect for the school’s honor code by replacing a four letter word with “heck” in a song and hanging her pony tail over a strapless shoulder.

O’Hara not only demonstrated her talent in the concert but also her ability to cope with theatrical mishaps, such as forgetting lyrics or singing in a malfunctioning microphone. The audience quickly forgave the disruptions with applause.

O’Hara called the MDT seniors onto stage to gather around her, boys in the back and girls in the front for her last song. She sang “Getting To Know You,” from The King and I, her current Broadway show for which she won her Tony Award. She invited the students to join in half way and told the audience to sing the last verse with them.

Audience members formed a long line, waiting for O’Hara to sign CDs sold after the performance.

The next day, O’Hara thanked Martin and the talented students at BYU via Twitter.


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