Tonys Backstage: Kelli O’Hara on Snapping Her Losing Streak and That Goofy Dance

Kelli O’Hara snapped a Tony Awards losing streak Sunday night that threatened to turn her into Broadway’s equivalent of Susan Lucci when she picked up a statue for best actress in a leading role in a musical for “The King and I.”

The victory, coming after five previous defeats, took the musical theater star by surprise.

“I completely lost my mind,” said O’Hara. “When they did say my name I think it just blew me away.”

“I just wanted to be able to say thank you to a lot of important people,” she added. “That’s the most important part. To be grateful.”

With her work in “The King and I” and her previous Tony-nominated performance in the 2008 revival of “South Pacific,” O’Hara has emerged as one of the preeminent interpreters of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music. The duo have a special resonance for O’Hara, because the Oklahoma native said she was introduced to musicals after seeing “Oklahoma.”

“They are running through my veins and they’re in my blood,” she said.

O’Hara concluded her emotional acceptance speech on a light note, goofily dancing off stage to “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”

“I thought they were going to tap me off, so I thought I’d beat them to it,” O’Hara explained backstage.

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