Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James team up in 'Days of Wine and Roses'

The stage stars, who first worked together in 2002, are among many pairs of collaborators reuniting in this new musical, which premiered off Broadway in 2023.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

The musical Days of Wine and Roses may be new to the stage, but it brings together five artists — Kelli O'Hara, Brian d'Arcy James, Adam Guettel, Craig Lucas, and Michael Greif — who have been in each other's orbits for decades. Tony Award winner O'Hara had her first Broadway starring role in 2002 in Sweet Smell of Success opposite Tony nominee d'Arcy James. He later performed in Next to Normal, directed by Greif, while O'Hara went on to earn her first Tony nomination for Guettel and Lucas's The Light in the Piazza.

The stars are realigning once more as Days of Wine and Roses heads to Broadway, at Studio 54 through April 28. Greif directs O'Hara and d'Arcy James as Kirsten and Joe, a couple who fall first into love, then alcoholism in the show adapted from the 1962 film starring Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon.

Early Piazza workshops set everything into motion. Not only were Guettel and O'Hara natural collaborators and fast friends, but also fellow longtime fans of the Wine and Roses movie. "Twenty years ago, we discussed the movie and I said to her, 'You look like Lee Remick, and you sound like [opera singer] Teresa Stratas,'" Guettel said.

"21 years ago!" O'Hara remarked, with a smile. "I wanted Adam to write Days of Wine and Roses for Brian and for me. I wanted to work with both of them again."

D'Arcy James hadn't worked with Guettel or Lucas before this process. Guettel started writing the musical's songs in 2012, and Lucas joined as book writer shortly thereafter. The team held numerous readings with O'Hara and d'Arcy James since then before Atlantic Theater Company premiered the show off Broadway in summer 2023. Days of Wine and Roses is now Guettel and Lucas's first Broadway show since Piazza.

With years' worth of work on the musical now under his belt, d'Arcy James was quick to praise the "beautiful characters" the writers developed — people who are "struggling and succeeding and failing and being humbled by that."

The team makes the characters' deeply human journey more poignant in every iteration of the musical. That commitment is what endears O'Hara to her collaborators. "I'm a huge fan of [Brian's] work, the artist that he is, and the person that he is. And when I went to do The Light in the Piazza with Adam, I had the same feeling about Adam's music and the way he writes."

The feeling is mutual. "When we made the [Piazza cast album], I heard the first unmastered mix of the title song and thought, 'This is why I'm doing this. This is why I'm in this business,'" Guettel said. "That's why I'm writing music — to be able to work with people like Kelli and Brian."

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Photo credit: Kelli O'Hara and Brian d'Arcy James in Days of Wine and Roses off Broadway. (Photo by Ahron R. Foster)

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