We recently sat down with Broadway star and mother of two Kelli O’Hara to talk theater and parenting, two subjects she knows a thing or two about. O’Hara won a Tony Award last year for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her unforgettable portrayal of Anna Leonowens in the critically acclaimed revival of The King and I, which is currently playing at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center.
O’Hara’s role as Anna has garnered a lot of attention, but it isn’t her only gig on Broadway at the moment – she’s also an ambassador for Kids Night on Broadway, which offers free admission to participating shows for kids under 18 accompanied by a full-paying adult. Check out our interview with the Broadway maven and super-mom to learn more about how she got her start and discover some great parenting tips for taking your kids to their first theater show. Browse kid-friendly events & more here.
TICKETMASTER: So can you share one picture that’s on your phone right now with fans?
KELLI: Brian Michael Hoffman, who worked as one of the dog handlers with Bill Berloni on NBC’s Peter Pan Live, just sent this a Couple of days ago. Working with this dog “Bodie” literally changed my life in a very important way, and I will cherish this picture.
How did you get your start in the theater?
My first professional job was doing summer stock at Music Theatre of Wichita. After that summer I made the decision to move to New York and give this thing a go. I started pounding the pavement on September 3, 1998.
From your experience, what makes a play or musical such a great family activity?
Theater always starts a conversation. No matter how old your kids are, having something to talk about with them is a dream. Theater provides endless themes, it conjures up feelings, it allows us to explore. We share it together, and when it is over, we talk talk talk!
What are some tips for taking kids to see their first Broadway show?
Find out what the show is about and talk/teach about the subject matter so they will understand (don’t give away the ending ;). Learn about the characters. Maybe listen to a cast album so the music is familiar if it is a musical. Teach them about theater etiquette. And try not to bring food wrapped in crinkly plastic or paper bags :). But DO encourage laughter, clapping, and excitement.
Any advice for young aspiring actors?
Be yourself. The more like someone else you are, the less powerful you are. Being the best you that you can be is the most special thing in the world. So try to focus on your own goals, your own path and don’t worry so much about the journeys around you (except to be positive and supportive, even when it’s hard).
What are some daily steps you take to balance your career and family life?
Sometimes I have to say “no” to events and opportunities that I would like to say “yes” to, but by saying no, I am saying yes to my family, and in the end it always feels better. I have to get enough sleep (ha!). I have to eat right and stay healthy so I can be healthy for my kids and for my work. And I have to find the joy in both work and family and recognize how they enhance each other.
Any personal advice you’d like to share with other working parents?
Don’t apologize for your work if you love it. Help your child to see it as a positive part of your life and they will think it is too. And include them in your work once in a while if you can.
What was the first live event or theater performance you ever attended?
My earliest memory of a live performance was my kindergarten school play. I wore a red dress with a white jacket (my grandma made it) and I sang “good ship lollipop.”
What other projects/productions are you currently working on?
Just King and I, a new solo concert, and some things that are hush hush :).
— broadway.com (@broadwaycom) January 2, 2016
Could you please share a YouTube video that you like?
I chose this clip, which you have all probably seen, because my children like to watch it over and over again. So it makes me very happy.
Anything else you’d like to share with fans?