O’Hara and Morrison bring Broadway enchantment to Jorgensen stage

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Broadway Stars Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Morrison perform musical numbers with a live orchestra at the Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.  Photos by Judah Shingleton / The Daily Campus.

Broadway Stars Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Morrison perform musical numbers with a live orchestra at the Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Photos by Judah Shingleton / The Daily Campus.

The magic and romance of Broadway songs warmed Jorgensen on a chilly autumn night this past weekend. With their astounding performances, Broadway star Kelli O’Hara and Broadway and TV actor Matthew Morrison made the audience feel like they were on the Great White Way instead of in Storrs, Connecticut. The passion and emotion of the pair’s songs resounded with the audience long after O’Hara had hit the last high note.  

After a whimsical performance of “The Carousel Waltz” by Symphony New Hampshire, O’Hara took the stage. Her first song was “Getting to Know You,” which was appropriate for introducing herself to the audience gathered in Jorgensen. She invited the crowd to sing along with her during some verses, quickly speaking the lines before singing them along with the audience.  

After sweet performances of “A Wonderful Guy” and “So in Love,” Morrison joined O’Hara onstage.  

“Thank you for singing all those songs about me,” Morrison joked. “I appreciate that.”  

The two dueted “People Will Say We’re in Love” before Morrison got some time to perform his own solos. He talked about his and O’Hara’s varying styles of singing, noting that O’Hara excelled at classic Broadway hits whereas he preferred jazz standards. In his solo time, Morrison performed “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” and “Some Enchanted Evening.”  

The two had a real chemistry together, even though their styles varied. While O’Hara could hold long high notes, Morrison was able to do some jazzy dancing during the instrumental parts of some of his songs. Both, however, were equally able to portray the complex emotions of their songs.  

In between his songs, Morrison talked a little about his own life. In his dedication of “As Long as He Needs Me,” Morrison discussed how his 2-year-old son has brought new meaning and depth to his work. Additionally, he said that he liked how classic Broadway songs often have more meaning behind them than modern, beat-driven pop hits.  

“I think it’s great,” Ray Dubois, a Hartford resident, said. “I like the fact that he said how music today is so beat-oriented, which you know, that’s fine, but I’m a baby boomer, but this is more my style … especially the Cole Porter stuff … I got all teary-eyed during that one. … ‘South Pacific,’ stuff from ‘Oklahoma,’ oh yeah, that’s really, really special, all the things I love.”  

Morrison and O’Hara originally met in 2005, when they played lovers in the Broadway musical “The Light in the Piazza.” O’Hara played a girl with a developmental disability named Clara who fell in love with an Italian man (played by Morrison) when she and her mother vacationed in Italy.  


The audience’s favorite song by far was O’Hara’s rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.”

The audience’s favorite song by far was O’Hara’s rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.”

The two also starred in “South Pacific” together, though they weren’t each other’s lovers in this production. Morrison joked about how after playing O’Hara’s lover in “The Light in the Piazza,” he felt a weird sort of jealousy that she was another man’s lover in “South Pacific.”  

The former castmates reprised some songs from both musicals, including their duet from “The Light in the Piazza,” “Say It Somehow,” about their characters’ struggle to be together. Before this song, Morrison sang “Il Mondo Era Vuoto” in Italian, and after their duet, O’Hara sang the musical’s titular song.  

The audience’s favorite song by far was O’Hara’s rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.” Her sustained high note at the end of the song garnered the longest round of applause all night. 

Another treat for fans of ‘Glee’ (the TV show in which Morrison played Will Schuester, the glee club advisor) was Brad Ellis’s presence as the pianist of the night. On the show, Ellis played the quiet piano player who often accompanies the Glee kids. He and Morrison joked about his perpetual silence, and Ellis said that it was weird for him to have a microphone for once. Nevertheless, the two both mentioned how they enjoyed working with one another.  

Whether or not audience members had seen ‘Glee,’ most agreed that it was a wonderful performance. As one of the few shows that O’Hara and Morrison perform together, many felt lucky to see it performed so close to home.  

“I thought it was fabulous,” Kimberly Marze, a Canton resident, said. “I’m a terrible gleek [fan of ‘Glee’]. I just thought it was terrific. I thought her [O’Hara’s] voice was amazing, I thought that they have a lot of chemistry together, and it was really fun.”


Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.

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