Jean Louisa Kelly: “Anything Can Happen”

“Anything can happen,” Jean Louisa Kelly says.

And in her life, just about anything has.

Soloing in her 2nd grade Christmas play in a Worcester suburb ignited an interest in performing. She took ballet, tap, jazz dance and voice lessons. A teacher encouraged her to audition for “Annie,” at Rhode Island’s Theater by the Sea.

At 11 years old, she landed the role.

The next summer, she was Annie at the Candlewood Playhouse. Regional theater followed; then came a New York talent competition, an agent, and a role in the original 1987 Broadway production of “Into the Woods.” Her movie debut followed 2 years later, as Tia in “Uncle Buck.”

Jean Louisa Kelly, in “Annie” …

After Columbia University, Kelly’s career continued to flourish, with “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

… and as Rowena Morgan in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” …

She met Jimmy Pitaro right after college. They married; she was booked for a new NBC series, “Cold Feet,” to be filmed in Vancouver.

They sold their New York apartment. Pitaro quit his law firm. They moved to Canada, where she filmed 8 episodes. Four were shown; suddenly, it was canceled.

Kelly and Pitaro drove south, and settled in Los Angeles. He got a job with a start-up; she got a job with CBS. For 6 years, she played Kim on “Yes, Dear.”

… and Kim Warner in “Yes, Dear.”

After their first child was born, Kelly pulled back a bit from acting. Pitaro’s career — he was now at Disney — took off.

In March of 2018, Pitaro was named chairman of ESPN. She wrapped up shooting for “Top Gun: Maverick.” Then the family — including their kids Sean and Josy — moved east.

They’d been intrigued by Westport for years, ever since visiting a college friend of Kelly’s here. The location — midway between ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut headquarters and its New York City office — made it a perfect choice.

They’ve loved Westport. After a bit of adjustment, their children thrived. Sean makes music, boxes with Rich Dean and works out with Lynroy Henry; Josy performs with Staples Players, and works with Cynthia Gibb’s Triple Threat Academy.

Kelly — who learned to audition from home during COVID, and landed roles in “Call of the Wild” and “Malignant” — began thinking of returning to the stage.

“I was living in the same town as Kelli O’Hara!” she laughs. “So it was time to go back to class.”

Jean Louisa Kelly

She studied in New York with Richard Sabellico — the man who had directed her in “Annie” at 11 years old. He encouraged her to create her own show.

She did. And on Saturday, July 9 she’ll debut “Anything Can Happen” — the title comes from that quote about her life — at Norwalk’s Music Theater of Connecticut. It’s a musical look at her life, and it promises to be great.

Encouraged by her screenwriter friend Gigi New, and with tweaks after a small March performance, Kelly has crafted an intriguing and inspirational look at her theatrical life.

Her musical director and pianist is Weston’s Emmy and Grammy-winning Paul Bogaev. His film credits include “Chicago,” “Nine,” “Dreamgirls,” “Across the Universe,” “Mulan” and “The Lion King”; he’s worked on Broadway shows like “Aida,” “Tarzan,” Sunset Boulevard” and “Les Miserables,” and TV productions of “Cinderella,” “South Pacific” — and “Annie.”

Kelly is no slouch as a musician herself. She’s released 2 EPs of original songs, one of standards, and a children’s album.

Anything can happen. For Jean Louisa Kelly, on July 9 everything will.

(Click here for tickets to the 8 p.m. performance on July 9 of “Anything Can Happen.”)

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