On the Red Carpet: Days of Wine and Roses Star Kelli O'Hara Declares She 'Was Born To Sing This Music' | Playbill

Opening Night On the Red Carpet: Days of Wine and Roses Star Kelli O'Hara Declares She 'Was Born To Sing This Music'

Go inside opening night with interviews and red carpet arrival photos with the cast and celebrity guests including Bernadette Peters, Ruthie Ann Miles, Amber Ruffin, and more.

Kelli O'Hara and Brian d'Arcy James Michaelah Reynolds

When Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas' Days of Wine and Roses officially opened on Broadway January 28, it was a contemplative celebration. 

Rife with reflection, the musical has been an extensive labor of love for all involved, in particular Guettal, whose choice to dive deep into the emotional cause and effect of addiction has reflected prisms of introspection upon its cast.

For star Kelli O'Hara, it was a long awaited homecoming. Receiving her first Tony nomination for her performance as Clara in Guettel's The Light in the Piazza, she is no stranger to his meditations on love and loss.

"(Adam) and I have so much history. As strange as it might seem, I feel like I was born to sing this music," O'Hara states. She played Kirsten, the teetotaler turned tippling stay-at-home mother within the piece. While O'Hara's soprano is as crystalline as ever, the role is strikingly different from the earnestly endearing leading ladies she has built her career playing. "There are lots of forms of humanity. And we can't just play the glorious ones. I've gotten to play many, many glorious ones. I've gotten to play many sympathetic people. And as an actor, it's a wise decision to put yourself in places of risk. I needed to play someone who was very flawed, and try to find the humanity inside her to represent all of those people out there who are not villains, who are good people, but who have a problem."

O'Hara stars opposite Brian d'Arcy James, who plays Joe, her Korean War veteran husband who struggles to keep pace with the world and his need to self medicate his PTSD. "Joe has the most profound roadmap for me to follow," says James. "There's so much to be explored with this character, in the complexity of the relationship that he, Joe Clay, has with Kirsten. It is such a pure delight for me as an actor to be able to try to figure them out every single night, and be awake and alive to everything that Craig and Adam's writing is saying to me while I do it. It is a gift."

Both Guettal and Lucas have been public in their own journey's with addiction, and their road to recovery. "I know how much hope there is, and how much joy there is in being free from being trapped by alcohol," Lucas proudly declares on the red carpet. "This show is to show that extraordinary freedom that is possible for those of us who are addicted."

READ: How Do You Write a Musical About Addiction? Adam Guettel Has Some Ideas

Director Michael Greif agrees, echoing Lucas. "I hope that audiences will have an empathic response. I hope there'll be an understanding, for people struggling with the issues that they're struggling with." 

James and O'Hara have worked together on and off for decades, but Days of Wine and Roses marks their first time starring opposite each other on Broadway since The Sweet Smell of Success in 2002. Their offstage friendship has heavily colored their collaboration on the vulnerably fraught piece.

"It's really the most extraordinary collaboration I've ever had," O'Hara says of James. "It is the safest, the most free I've ever felt. He's so such a master of what he does. But he's also such a beautiful person. I'm in the best hands every single night."

James agrees fervently. "My admiration for her as an actor is profound and endless. I've seen her along the way, as everybody has, and I have celebrated and applauded her many iconic performances over the last 20 years. But to see her in this way, playing a character that is asking so much of her, to see her do it so effortlessly, and so beautifully, amazes me. And to know that we share such a pact of trust and friendship that allows us to try to be as brave as we can in opening up the hearts of Joe and Kirsten. I'm very grateful to her for that."

We celebrated this time-tested with a little trivia game about the duo. See how much first-nighters like Ruthie Ann Miles, Jen Colella, and Josh Henry know about Kelli and Brian in the video below. 

The new musical began previews January 6, and the limited engagement will continue through April 28.

O'Hara and James star as Kirsten Arnesen and Joe Clay (respectively) after leading the 2023 Off-Broadway bow at Atlantic Theater Company, with much of that cast returning alongside them, including Byron Jennings as Arnesen, Sharon Catherine Brown as Mrs. Nolan, Bill English as Mr. Shaw, Olivia Hernandez as Betty, and David Jennings as Jim Hungerford. New to the company are Tony Carlin as Rad, Tabitha Lawing as Lila, and David Manis as Delaney.

Rounding out the company are swings Steven Booth, Nicole Ferguson, and Kelcey Watson; and understudy Addie Manthey.

Click through the gallery below for red carpet photos from opening night. Attendees included Bernadette Peters, Amber Ruffin, Claybourne Elder, Douglas Lyons, and Anna Zalveson and Ruthie Ann Miles, who starred in the recent New York City Centers Encores! production of The Light in the Piazza.

Photos: Opening Night of Days of Wine and Roses on Broadway

Returning is the entire Off-Broadway creative team, led by director Greif. As at the Atlantic, the production features choreography by Sergio Trujillo and Karla Puno Garcia, scenic design by Lizzie Clachan, costume design by Dede Ayite, lighting design by Ben Stanton, sound design by Kai Harada, hair and wigs by David Brian Brown, and orchestrations by Guettel and Jamie Lawrence. Kimberly Grigsby is also back as music director. Casting is by The Telsey Office's Craig Burns.

Adapted from the 1962 film and a 1958 teleplay, Days of Wine and Roses is somewhat of a Light in the Piazza reunion. Guettel and Lucas previously collaborated on the 2005 musical, with Guettel winning Tony Awards for his score and orchestrations, and Lucas receiving a Tony nod for his book. O'Hara starred and was Tony-nominated for her performance as Clara.

The Broadway bow is produced by Kevin McCollum, Mark Cortale, Sing Out, Louise! Productions, Atlantic Theater Company, Robert Greenblatt, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Wild Oak Media, Bob Boyett Theatricals, and Lucas McMahon. The production is presented in association with Roundabout Theatre Company, which owns Studio 54, though Days of Wine and Roses is not part of Roundabout's season.

Visit DaysOfWineandRosesBroadway.com.

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