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Kelli Christine O'Hara was born on April 16, 1976 in Elk City, Oklahoma and is a Tony Award-winning actress. Finally winning a Tony Award in 2015 for her performance as Anna Leonowens in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of The King and I, she has earned six additional nominations throughout her career for her roles in The Bridges of Madison County, Nice Work If You Can Get It, South Pacific, The Pajama Game, The Light in the Piazza, and Kiss Me, Kate!
O'Hara attended Deer Creek High School and went on to study music, graduating with a bachelor's degree in vocal performance and opera from Oklahoma City University. She was taught by voice teacher Florence Birdwell, who had also previously tutored another Broadway veteran: Kristin Chenoweth.
Her first notable professional job was in the ensemble of the 1999 national tour of Jekyll & Hyde, which would lead to her joining the Broadway company in June 2000 and making her Broadway debut. She remained with the production until its final performance on January 7, 2001. O'Hara quickly booked her next Broadway credit as Young Hattie in the Broadway revival of Follies from March 2001, eventually assuming the role of Young Phyllis. She went on to appear as Susan in the Broadway premiere of Sweet Smell of Success in spring 2002 and made her Off-Broadway debut as Albertine for the Playwrights Horizons production of My Life with Albertine in spring 2003. The next year, she was cast as Lucy Westenra in the Broadway premiere of Dracula, the Musical, which ran from July 30, 2004 to January 2, 2005.
O'Hara's career on stage reached new heights following her performance as Clara Johnson in the Lincoln Center Theater production of The Light in the Piazza. She played the role from March 17 through December 4, 2005 and earned her first Tony Award nomination. She received Tony Award nominations for all of her subsequent appearances on Broadway until 2016. Her résumé includes the roles of Babe Williams in the 2006 revival of The Pajama Game, Ensign Nellie Forbush in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of South Pacific, Billie Bendix in the 2012 premiere of Nice Work If You Can Get It (also earning a Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Theater Album in 2013), and Francesca in the 2014 premiere of The Bridges of Madison County. At that point in her career, O'Hara was a five-time Tony Award nominee, and she also found time to appear off Broadway as Regan in The Public Theater's 2011 revival of King Lear. She also returned to Playwrights Horizons as Cathy Whitaker in 2013's Far From Heaven.
Her various concert stagings include leading roles in Sunday in the Park with George, My Fair Lady, Bells Are Ringing, She Loves Me, and Brigadoon, and her Metropolitan Opera credits include The Merry Widow in 2014 and Così fan tutte in 2018.
She finally won a Tony Award in 2015 for her widely acclaimed performance as Anna Leonowens in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of The King and I, starring in the production from March 12, 2015 to April 17, 2016. She would reprise the role and make her West End debut in The King and I at the London Palladium from June to September 2018, with that production being broadcast to cinemas worldwide in November 2018.
Although primarily known for her career on the Broadway stage, O'Hara has also appeared in numerous films and television series, including the role of Mrs. Darling in NBC's live televised musical Peter Pan Live! and a 2018 Emmy Award-nominated performance as Katie Bonner in The Accidental Wolf. Other notable screen credits include Sex and the City 2, Numb3rs, 13 Reasons Why, Blue Bloods, and Masters of Sex. She also starred in the popular Live from Lincoln Center series twice — as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific in 2010 and as Julie Jordan in Carousel in 2013.
Following Roundabout Theatre Company's critically acclaimed 2016 benefit concert of the classic Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate!, O'Hara reprised the dual roles of Kate and Lilli Vanessi in a fully staged Broadway revival at Studio 54 from February 14 through June 30, 2019, earning yet another Tony Award nomination.