Kelli O’Hara Talks ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ Musical, Challenging Herself, and… Shakespeare?
It’s starting to seem like Kelli O’Hara is becoming the Susan Lucci of Broadway.
O’Hara has been nominated for four Tony Awards for a number of acclaimed productions, but has yet to win. However, it’s possible that O’Hara might have success with her most out-of-the-box Broadway musical yet: The Bridges of Madison County, based on the bestselling book. She is also negotiating to star in a revival of The King and I in the future, just in case she doesn’t get a Tony for this one, either. She spoke about why she insists on challenging herself over and over again in her career, including when she took on a Shakespearean role.
Not only does O’Hara refer to The Bridges of Madison County as her “biggest challenge,” but she is doing it as the mother of a five month year old baby. As many new parents will tell you, O’Hara says, “Sleep is a whole different thing for me now,” making the production extra difficult.
O’Hara insists that this role is significant to her as an actress. She explains, “It’s really important to me. I keep wanting to take risks and reinvent myself in certain ways, whether it be a good thing or a bad thing. And thankfully, I’ve just slid under the radar. It’s like, ‘She didn’t completely ruin herself with that.’ This one is probably the most in-your-face as far as me trying to step out of my box, my comfort zone.”
One of those challenges was when O’Hara, who is obviously best known for musicals, appeared in a production of King Lear at The Public Theater in November 2011. As for that change of pace, she explains, “I sought it out. I auditioned. I worked. I auditioned for a couple of things beforehand that I didn’t get and I waited for the right thing to come. It’s something I’ve wanted to do forever.”
That production of King Lear was actually O’Hara’s first professional Shakespeare role. She reveals, “It was on my bucket list. I’m telling you I sat in that room like a silly little schoolgirl learning about iambic pentameter and when to breathe and then learning how to connect it with an actual emotional thought. I loved every second of it. It was the most wonderful gift I could have and I was so nervous and so glad.”