Tag Archives: Kelli O’Hara

Roundup: Longshore Sailing; Anti-Racism; Arts Programs; Jewish Food; More


Longshore Sailing School provides this update:

“The facility has been serviced by ServPro as a response to our positive COVID case. Vessels have been postponed until today, as the weather prevented proper sanitizing.

“Though we are technically able to stay open, we are choosing to remain closed through the end of the day on Friday. We will reopen on Saturday. We will provide a refund for the missed class days of our students. Rentals and sdult programs will resume on Saturday, July 11 at 9:30 a.m. Junior programs will resume on Monday, July 13.”


Everyone’s talking about racism. But how can we talk about it appropriately and effectively, with kids?

That’s the focus of an important virtual panel discussion. “Towards Becoming an Anti-Racist Society: Talking with Young Children About Race and Racism” — sponsored by TEAM Westport, Greens Farms Academy, The Westport Library and United Way of Coastal Fairfield County — is set for Wednesday, July 22 (7 to 8:30 p.m.).

Panelists include Bank Street educator Takiema Bunche Smith, early childhood director Linda Santoro and TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey Jr. Moderator Shanelle Henry is director of equity and inclusion at GFA.

It should be an engaging (and free!) discussion. Click here to register.


MoCA Westport reopened this week with — executive director Ruth Mannes says — “a renewed sense of perspective, purpose, and hope.” Guests are welcomed to the Helmut Lang exhibition “in a very safe setting. Physically distanced visits will feel like private tours.”

Summer hours are Wednesdays through Fridays, 12 to 4 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, click here.


The Westport Country Playhouse, Shubert Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre have teamed up to present a free, virtual program for high school students in Fairfield County and New Haven County.

THRIVE (Teens Having Resilience in a Virtual Environment) includes interactive workshops and discussions on themes like spoken word, creative writing, arts, performance, wellness, job training, cooking and more, led by specialists in each field.

The program runs from Monday, July 20 through Saturday, August 8. It ends with a virtual showcase hosted by Tony-winning Broadway star (and Westport’s own) Kelli O’Hara.

The deadline to apply is (uh oh) tomorrow (Friday, July 10). Click here for more information.


Who knew that Michael Wolfe’s blog post “My Definitive And Absolutely Correct Ranking of 40 Jewish Foods” would go viral (over 220,000 views so far)? Oy!

Tonight (Thursday, July 9, 7 p.m.), the Westporter will speak online about it all. Everyone is welcome. Click here to join. Don’t forget your bagel!


Singing is supposed to be cathartic. These days, it’s also a very effective way to spread the coronavirus.

But not if the vocals are virtual.

Westport music educator Danielle Merlis has enlisted Backtrack Vocals — the New York a cappella ensemble with Broadway appearances in “Kinky Boots,” and here at Toquet Hall — to be artists in (online) residence at her Camp A Cappella.

Beginning tomorrow (Friday, July 10) Backtrack Vocals members will lead virtual for young singers entering grades 4-12. Students will learn an  arrangement of a pop song, which they’ll perform in a final video alongside the professional ensemble.

The workshop includes lessons in beatboxing, choreography and ensemble skills; each student receives individual instruction.

No prior vocal training or ensemble singing is required. Students can sign up any time before July 23rd, and watch the classes on demand! Email campacappellact@gmail.com for more information.

Danielle Merlis


Norwalk author Jerry Craft made history when “New Kid” became the first graphic novel to win the prestigious Newbery Medal. He is also only the 5th Black writer to earn the prize.

He’s the second speaker in the Westport Library’s new Camp Explore summer program, for youngsters entering grades 4 to 8. Each week there’s a new guest — a global expert in his or her field.

Craft will appear (virtually) Monday (July 13) at 4 p.m. To register, click here.


Tomorrow at noon, 4  Westport girls will be honored for their social impact ventures.

The quartet — Staples High School’s Hannah Cohen and Lina Singh, and Bedford Middle School’s Samantha Henske and Yanira Rios — participated in Girls With Impact‘s online entrepreneurship academy. The program’s goal is to increase the number of diverse women leaders and innovators in the workforce.

Tomorrow’s online event includes nearly 1,000 teenagers, from 40 states.


And finally … 65 years ago today — July 9, 1955 — “Rock Around the Clock” hit #1 on the Billboard chart. It’s called “the first rock ‘n’ roll” record. I have no idea how you define such a thing. But I do know: Neither Bill Haley nor his Comets look anything like what we call a “rock star.”

Roundup: Kids’ Parade; Signs Of Happiness; More


Sherwood Farms Lane is a small street, off Greens Farms Road. But it’s got true international flavor, with families from Ireland, Russia, Norway, India, China, Japan, Dominica and Australia.

Every year, they celebrate America with a July 4 “kid parade.”

Despite COVID, yesterday was no different. The youngsters had their usual fun.

And, Mark Rubino says, “the adults commented how comforting this tradition felt, given how unsettled the world is right now.”

Sherwood Farms Lane bike parade. (Photo/Mark Rubino)


Surrounded by COVID, Westporter Kimberly Paris wanted to do something to make people smile.

She launched a new yard sign company: “Signs of Happiness.” She personally designs and hand cuts each one.

Her first was for Father’s Day. She added 2 more for this weekend.

People love them. And, Kimberly says, they actually slow down to look, instead of rolling through stop signs.

Her website just launched. She’ll update it to offer a variety of special occasion signs, all available for 24-hour rental. For more information, email signsofhappiness@yahoo.com.


Last night’s 40th “Capitol 4th” concert on PBS was taped — not live — due to COVID-19. The lack of a huge audience West Lawn audience took away some oomph from the annual show.

Still, it was great seeing our friend and neighbor, Kelli O’Hara, singing the beautiful “If I Loved You” from “Carousel.”


And finally … in honor of this weekend:

COVID Roundup: “Parade”; “Taps”; Restaurant Info; Kelli O’Hara; More


If you’re like many Westporters, missing today’s Memorial Day parade was tough.

If you lived near downtown though, you were in luck.

Neighborhood kids were invited to decorate bikes. They rode — appropriately apart — from Wright Street to Orchard Lane, Ludlow Road and Kings Highway North. Over 40 youngsters (and a few parents) took part.

Spectators stood on their porches, and clapped. There was a street party afterward — still socially distant, but able to celebrate in the new old-fashioned way.

(Photo/Anne Hardy)


At 3 p.m. today (Memorial Day), a bugler will play “Taps” on the plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk. It’s part of “Taps Across America,” a project initiated by CBS “On the Road” correspondent Steve Hartman.

Masked, appropriately distanced residents are invited to attend.

“Taps,” at Westport’s 2015 Memorial Day ceremony.


Todd Pines has been thinking about our dining scene. He writes:

“While restaurants are starting to open with limited capacity, most business is likely to be takeout  for the foreseeable future. Ordering through behemoth delivery services (Uber Eats, Grubhub, etc.) takes an enormous split of the tab, further challenging restaurants’ ability to survive.

“Residents should understand the small impact they can make by calling a restaurant directly, seeing if they offer their own delivery staff. You can also consider getting in your own car, and picking up your meal directly. It means a lot to the restaurant owner.”

For a deep dive into delivery services, click here.

PS: Todd adds, “For the entrepreneurial-minded, a lot of college students and high school seniors are looking for work. They could help those restaurants with delivery, pocketing the tips while not forcing restaurants to discount their tab.”

Layla’s Falafel offers great food — and they have their own delivery service. Ordering direct helps them stay in business.


Speaking of which: Winfield Street Coffee is back open, just over the downtown bridge. Hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast, lunch and catering. There’s takeout, curbside pickup, delivery, and a few new seats on the sidewalk.

Also new: a “Reserved Parking/To Go Orders Only” sign, right in front. In these times when local businesses need all the help they can get — they’re getting it!


One of the underrated treasures of any Memorial Day is the PBS concert, broadcast from Washington, DC. It’s America at its best.

Last night’s show was different. The pandemic canceled the live show, so musical guests appeared on tape, from all over the country.

And right there among them was Westport’s own Kelli O’Hara. The Tony Award winner delivered a haunting rendition of “Fire and Rain.” Its refrain “but I always thought that I’d see you again” — juxtaposed against scenes of loved ones visiting graves of the men and women they’d lost — provided some of the most powerful moments of the entire evening.


And finally … as the coronavirus kept us apart today, let’s look back on a great Westport tradition. Here’s the Staples High School band in 2013, with their rousing Memorial Day “Armed Forces Salute.”

COVID-19 Roundup: Student Theater And Art; Medical Heroes; Baseball, Masks, More

The Westport Country Playhouse is dark. But it lights up on both Facebook and the Playhouse’s own YouTube channel on Friday, April 17 (7 p.m.).

It shines with Westport’s own Kelli O’Hara, and 10 randomly selected Fairfield County High School students. They’ll chat with the Broadway star, and perform musical theater selections.

Students can click here between tomorrow (Sunday, April 5, 10 a.m.) and Wednesday (April 8, 10 a.m.). Upload a video of yourself performing any musical theater song.

In addition to the 10 students chosen, 10 “understudies” will be selected to submit a question for Kelli to answer during the show.

“I’m a firm believer in the healing magic of the arts,” the Tony Award-winning (“The King and I”) actor says. Most recently, she earned a Tony nomination for “Kiss Me, Kate.”

All videos submitted will be featured in a compilation, released on Playhouse social media channels. For more information, email education@westportplayhouse.org.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


First “06880” encouraged Westport students to do artwork while they’re home from school.

Now Friends of Westport Public Art Collections is doing the same. Here’s the hook: If your work is accepted by Friends, it will be featured in the public schools’ 2020-21 calendar.

Submissions can be new — or something already painted, drawn, photographed or digitally created. Click here for details.


Many people have seen this photo from Yale New Haven Health. Front line personnel are pleading with everyone to keep physical distance.

But you may not know that the nurse in the far left of the front row is Nick Kiedaisch. The 2012 Staples High School graduate — and varsity baseball star — is among the medical heroes. Let’s do all we can to make his and his colleagues’ jobs easier. (Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)


Lifelong Westporter Deborah Johnson is a well-known designer and decorator, with her own drapery business.

Over the years she has assembled plenty of extra fabric. Now she’s using it to make face masks. If you’d like to help, or know someone in great need, email wsptgirl@yahoo.com(Hat tip: Steve Crowley)


Speaking of masks: Yesterday’s Roundup story on Virginia Jaffe’s project raised immediate funds, delivered 4 sewing helpers — and brought a request from the director of STAR Lighting the Way. Today, Virginia and her crew are donating 80 masks for their staff. Well done!

Virginia Jaffe, in her workroom


It’s looking increasingly unlikely that the spring high school sports season will happen.

That’s devastating news to hundreds of Staples athletes — and hundreds of thousands more across the country.

Which brings up this local/national news: In a just-released preseason poll, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association ranked the Wreckers 31st, in the entire country.

They’re defending state champions. But they may never get their chance to defend their title.

They might also lose the opportunity to see how much further they’d climb in the rankings. Normally at this time of year, anticipation and excitement would be high.

Opening day was supposed to have been today.

Instead of “Play ball!” it’s “Keep away!”

So right now, guys, we’re sorry. Congratulations on being #31 in the nation will have to suffice. (Hat tip: Vince Kelly)


And finally, what’s Saturday without a dance party?

C’mon! It’s time to throw down. Nobody’s watching! And even if they are …

2 Westporters Earn Emmy Nominations

Westporters will have 2 favorites, when the Emmy Awards are broadcast in September.

Justin Paul — the 2003 Staples High School graduate who has already earned Grammy, Oscar and Tony honors — could become a legendary EGOT.  The songwriting duo were nominated for “In the Market for a Miracle.” They composed the tune for “A Christmas Story Live” — Fox’s adaptation of their 2012 stage musical.

Justin Paul was in Westport last month, entertaining and inspiring the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” crowd.

(Speaking of legends: John Legend is up for an acting Emmy. If he wins, he becomes an EGOT too.)

Kelli O’Hara‘1st-ever nomination comes for Outstanding Actress In A Short Form Comedy Or Drama Series. She plays Katie Bonner in “The Accidental Wolf.”

Kelli O’Hara performed earlier this year at a fundraising cabaret for Staples High School’s Orphenians. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

We’ve got 2 months to wait. The 70th Emmy Awards will be broadcast on Monday, September 17 (8 p.m., NBC).

(Hat tip: Kerry Foley)

Alec Baldwin, Kelli O’Hara Headline Playhouse Gala

A. R. “Pete” Gurney died last June. He was 86 years old.

The playwright holds many distinctions — including most-produced playwright in the Westport Country Playhouse’s 88-year history. Since 1980, the historic theater has produced 21 of his works.

A.R. “Pete” Gurney

Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos also has a deep association with Gurney. He has directed many of his longtime friend’s plays, both off-Broadway and at the Playhouse. Some were world premieres.

At Carnegie Hall, Lamos diected Alec Baldwin in Gurney’s “Love Letters.”

So with all those connections, it’s no surprise that the Westport Country Playhouse’s annual fundraising gala features Mark Lamos directing Alec Baldwin in Pete Gurney’s “Love Letters.”

The cast for the old-friends event (April 12) also includes Westporter Kelli O’Hara, a Tony Award winner for her portrayal of Anna in “The King and I.”

Lamos first met Gurney in the early 1980s, while running Hartford Stage. The writer’s understanding of the “New England WASP gestalt” fascinated the director, who saw in Gurney’s characters some of the company’s board members and donors.

“He absolutely captures the sound of a generation of upper-class people,” Lamos says. “He hears their voices, and makes them real. He’s at the end of a long tradition of people like Henry James and John Cheever — New England-based comedy of manners writers.”

In addition, Lamos says, “Pete has a wonderful sense of humor. He has a talent for fine-tuning a joke — or taking it away.”

Mark Lamos

Twenty years ago, when Lamos and his husband moved to western Connecticut, Gurney invited them to dinner with Arthur Miller. Gurney, Lamos and their spouses became good friends.

Over the years, Lamos directed Gurney’s “Big Bill,” “The Dining Room” and others.

Since joining the Playhouse in 2009, Lamos has appreciated Gurney’s long association with the Westport theater. Jim McKenzie — executive director there for 41 years — loved the playwright’s work, Lamos says.

He’s proud to keep up the tradition.

And looking very forward to the April 12 gala, which raises funds so the Playhouse can continue producing many more intriguing, entertaining and thought-provoking plays.

By Pete Gurney — and others, too.

(For more information about the April 12 Spring Gala, including tickets, click here.)

The Westport Country Playhouse

Cabaret!

Broadway was dark last night. That’s a Monday tradition.

But a capacity crowd at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall enjoyed an evening of entertainment as show-stopping as anything you’ll see in New York.

Tony Award-winning Kelli O’Hara and “A Bronx Tale” lead Adam Kaplan headlined an all-star cabaret. It was a fundraiser for Staples Orphenians, who travel to Australia this summer for performances and workshops.

Kelli O’Hara, at last night’s cabaret. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

O’Hara — a Westport resident — wowed the crowd with her operatic voice. She was full of praise for Staples’ stellar a cappella group, who she first heard perform last spring, at the Levitt Pavilion.

Standing in the church hall loft, the Orphenians — led by choral director Luke Rosenberg, down below — accompanied O’Hara on 2 compelling numbers.

Kaplan — a 2008 Staples graduate — recalled his days in the music and drama programs. At Elon University, he said, he talked so much about his high school that his friends joked there were 3 levels of performance: “Elon, Broadway, and at the top, Staples.”

Adam Kaplan (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The cabaret also featured Staples grads Clay Singer and Caroline Didelot, and solos by 9 Orphenians.

(Click here for the Orphenians’ GoFundMe page.)

White Barn Theatre’s Dramatic Vanishing Act

Local residents  are justly proud of the Westport Country Playhouse. Since 1931, an old cow barn and tannery in an apple orchard has been transformed into a historic and influential piece of American theater history.

For years, Westport was also home to the White Barn Theatre. Less known — and operating only on weekends — the small stage in a former horse barn boasts plenty of its own history. Founded in 1947 by noted actress and theater producer Lucille Lortel, it premiered works by Eugene Ionesco, Athol Fugard and Edward Albee.

The White Barn Theatre.

The White Barn Theatre.

When the White Barn closed in 2002 — 3 years after Lortel’s death, at 98 — Westport lost 1 of our 2 theatrical jewels.

Or so we thought.

Recent press reports — including the New York Times — about a battle to save the theater building from demolition, and conserve acres of nearby woods and streams — place the White Barn Theatre in Norwalk.

They’re right.

Most of the 15-acre property lies in Norwalk. A back parcel — around 2.5 acres — is in Westport.

Lucille Lortel, outside her White Barn Theatre.

Lucille Lortel, outside her White Barn Theatre.

The theater — which still stands, unused, with Al Hirschfeld’s drawings of the many famous playwrights, actors and visitors on the walls  — was on Norwalk land. Apparently, years ago, Lortel persuaded the Westport post office to deliver mail there.

She must have figured a Westport address meant more to theater-goers than a Norwalk one.

How much longer the decaying theater — and Lortel’s handsome home — will remain standing is in doubt.

A long-running fight over the property — encompassing old-growth forest, trails, meadows, a pond and waterfall — may be coming to a head. Various factions are fighting over its future. A developer wants to build 15 houses.

A map showing the proposed 15-home development. Cranbury Road (left) marks the border between Norwalk and Westport. Click on or over hover to enlarge.

A map showing the proposed 15-home development. Cranbury Road (in red on left) marks the border between Norwalk and Westport. Click on or over hover to enlarge.

Meanwhile, Lortels’ grand-nephew — 25-year-old Waldo Mayo, an actor himself — is trying to buy the land and revive the theater. He’s got support from folks like Kevin Spacey and Kelli O’Hara (who really does live in Westport). Raising the $5 million-plus purchase price has been slow — but a major fundraiser is in the works.

The Save Cranbury Association — a longtime neighborhood that includes nearby Westport residents — is backing Mayo. They’re concerned about the impact of 15 homes on wetlands and wildlife.

A portion of the Cranbury property.

A portion of the Cranbury property.

Demolition of the theater has been temporarily delayed. Earlier work — including asbestos removal — had already begun.

It’s a true-life story. One that would make an intriguing play.

Set either in Westport or Norwalk.

Though like the White Barn Theatre itself, where it is is less important than what it means.

(To learn more about saving the White Barn Theater, click here.)

The 6th Time’s The Charm!

If the acting profession teaches you anything, it’s to keep following your dream.

Kelli O’Hara has been a noted Broadway star for years. But it wasn’t until last night — after 5 previous nominations — that the Westporter scored a Tony.

She snagged theater’s biggest prize as Best Actress in a Musical, for her portrayal of Anna in the revival of “The King and I.”

O’Hara is married to Greg Naughton. He grew up in Weston, son of famed actor James Naughton.

Another Westport big winner — in another way — was Tom Greenwald. He’s the chief strategy officer at SpotCo, a New York ad agency specializing in entertainment.

They handled advertising for 16 Tony-nominated shows — including Best Musical “Fun Home” and Best Play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

This being Westport, I’m sure there are more Tony connections. If you know of any — other than “Hey, I watched the ceremony last night!” or “Well, producer Harvey Weinstein’s ‘Neverland’ didn’t win anything” — click Comments.

Congrats to Kelli, Tom — and hopefully many other Westporters too!

 

4 Reasons To Watch Tonight’s Telecast Of “Peter Pan,” Besides The Fact That On Live TV, Anything Can Happen

  1. Westporter Kelli O’Hara plays Mrs. Darling.
  2. Weston resident Christopher Walken is Captain Hook.
  3. Staples Class of 2004 graduate Gina Rattan is associate director — as she was for the live broadcast of “Cinderella.”
  4. Staples grad Jeffrey Small is site coordinator.
Gina Rattan

Gina Rattan

(“Peter Pan” is live on NBC at 8 pm EST tonight — Thursday, December 4. Of course, you can always tape it…)