Monday, June 9, 2008

Kelli O'Hara

This is not at all what I was expecting, and I have to say I’m disappointed. I’ve liked Kelli O’Hara in all her Broadway roles. She always stands out, and she’s absolutely smashing right now as Nellie Forbush in Lincoln Center’s shimmering revival of South Pacific. That star quality is for the most part missing here in her recently released first solo CD. O’Hara sounds more in the tradition of Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez, although without the political undertones. Judging from the CD cover, that’s probably what she had in mind. A close-up shot of her unsmiling face, wearing little make-up and with her blond hair perfectly straight, it’s more reminiscent of a 1960s album cover of Mary Travers than a Broadway superstar.

I’ve never cared much for songs sung too slowly, or at least not many in a row. When Carole King and James Taylor were all the rage, I used to feel their music was too draggy. Let’s just say it’s not my speed.

On Wonder in the World, O’Hara sings nearly every song slowly -- very slowly. She wrote two of the songs, her husband, Greg Naughton, wrote one and Harry Connick Jr. wrote three; he also accompanies her on piano and sings the title track with her.

I liked it when she picked up the pace a bit, or at least went from ultra mellow to sexy and sensuous as she did in two Connick songs, “All You Get is Me” and “Slowly,” my favorite selection, which sounds like an intimate conversation over a candlelit dinner -- or in bed. “Slowly, I’ll love you slowly, and when we’re through, if we have nothing to do, I’ll love you slowly, again.” She also does a sultry “Spooky,” which features a nice jazz arrangement.

If you want a really mellow CD, this one’s for you. If you’d like to hear O’Hara in a livelier form, tune in to the Tony Awards broadcast on June 15. She’s nominated for best actress in a musical and will be performing a number from South Pacific. I’ll be looking forward to that.

No comments: