ARTS by George! benefit
GMU’s Center for the Arts
4373 Mason Pond Dr.
Saturday, Sept. 23
Tickets start at $60
With six Tony nominations to her credit — including a well-deserved win in 2015 for her portrayal as Anna in the revival of “The King and I” — Kelli O’Hara has been one of Broadway’s most beloved leading ladies for the past decade.
The stage star has had memorable turns in shows such as “The Light in the Piazza,” “South Pacific,” “The Bridges of Madison County” and “The Pajama Game.”
On Saturday, Sept. 23, O’Hara will make her headlining debut at the George Mason Center for the Arts as part of the annual ARTS by George! Benefit. On the night, she will be performing Broadway hits, classic pop songs and American standards.
“My performance will be a mix of personal stories and a diverse mix of songs from my career and childhood,” she says. “Having art in my life and in my education has made me a better person. I’m certain of it. I love the idea of sharing with, learning from and encouraging establishments who want to continue an arts tradition.”
Also on the night, O’Hara will also be joined by students from Mason’s School of Music for one special number and she is looking forward to that song.
“Being an artist is one of the most collaborative joys of my life,” she says. “It’s what it’s all about for me. It makes so much sense for me to find new artists to make music with whenever I can.”
Originally from Oklahoma, O’Hara received a degree in opera and after winning the State Metropolitan Opera Competition, moved to New York and enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute. She made her Broadway debut in “Jekyll & Hyde” as a replacement ensemble member.
“It was fast and unremarkable although exhilarating, but the very next show I did just a few months later was Sondheim’s ‘Follies,’ and that experience with folks like Judith Ivey, Blyth Danner, Polly Bergen, Betty Garrett and Joan Roberts, among others, was so magical,” she says. “Like a dream come true. I just stood and watched and learned and thought of all the history that I was now becoming a part of. And Sondheim was there, crying. I will never forget it.”
She followed those shows with “Sweet Smell of Success” opposite John Lithgow, and “Dracula.” Next, she’ll be seen on stage Nov. 15-19 at New York’s City Center for a week-long concert staging of “Brigadoon” opposite Patrick Wilson.
“I love these bursts of artistry when many people can come together and throw up a show quickly and hopefully well and have a great time,” she says. “I love supporting City Centers/Encore and am excited to work with Patrick Wilson and Christopher Wheeldon on this great old score.”
O’Hara will also be appearing next season on the Netflix hit show, “13 Reasons Why.” She admits balancing theater and TV opportunities is important to her.
“As artists, we are constantly inspired to learn and try new things, new genres of art,” she says. “This year, I am shooting this TV show and singing Cosi Fan Tutte at the MET and doing a musical. It’s like a dream to stretch myself and be challenged and I truly believe each strengthens the other. I hope to continue to have these diverse opportunities.”
Looking forward to stopping in Northern Virginia for the night, O’Hara hopes that those attending can put any political feelings aside and just concentrate on the arts.
“I feel at a loss lately about how separate we feel as a nation and as human beings,” O’Hara says. “One thing I have always hoped is that art can bring us together, if even for an evening. I hope we can come together for a night of music and be reminded that love is the answer.”
There are two ways to purchase tickets for the event. Ticket and sponsorship packages to the full ARTS by George! benefit event, which starts at 5 p.m. and includes the concert are available at artsbygeorge.gmu.edu or single tickets ($60-100) to the concert portion only, starting at 8 p.m. are available at cfa.gmu.edu/calendar/2489.