Kelli O’Hara, left, and Sutton Foster, right, at the 2020 Staller Center Gala on March 7. The center was packed despite Gov. Cuomo’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak. RABIA GURSOY/THE STATESMAN

The 2020 Staller Center Gala was packed on March 7 despite Gov. Cuomo’s declaration of a state emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The performance portion of the night went smoothly but precautions against COVID-19 canceled the reception afterward. 

On stage, a cup of water was placed for the Broadway stars. Tony award-winner Kelli O’Hara took the stage first and started off with a small joke. “No one drank out of my cup right?” O’Hara asked. “Thank you all for coming out tonight. This may be our last gathering.”

The crowd laughed and the night went on with jokes and touching moments.


O’Hara performed during the first half of the show. Her performance of the song, “They Don’t Let You in the Opera” touched upon how she started out as a country singer and wanted to become an opera singer. The song represented her resistance. Not a lot of people were supportive of her along the way, but she never gave up on her dream and now she performs opera all around the world. She ended her performance with “La Vie En Rose.” 

O’Hara received her Tony award in 2015 for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, along with a Grammy and Outer Critics nominations for her role as Anna Leonowens in the production “The King and I.” 

O’Hara invited Tony award-winner Sutton Foster and they performed together for the first time on the same bill.  They performed “Sing, Sing a Song” by the Carpenters. They both had smiles on their faces and enjoyed the performance just as much as the audience. 

Foster took over the second half of the performance. Foster’s facial expressions animated her performance. She thanked everyone for coming, “This is the first time I had a chance to perform with the amazing Kelli O’Hara and this was thanks to the efforts of the Staller Center [for the Arts].” 


Foster is an award-winning actress, singer and dancer who has performed in more than 10 Broadway shows. Foster won a Tony for her performance in “Anything Goes” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” She will star in the revival of “The Music Man” with Hugh Jackman next fall, while starring in her award-winning series, “Younger,” which has attracted young audiences. 

Foster and O’Hara ended the night with a touching version of  “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell. “I hope we share the stage lots more,” O’Hara said. They received a standing ovation and took the stage once again to give their final bow. 

“I’m so glad that everyone showed up. The night was excellent,” Interim President Micheal Bernstein, said.


Correction 03/13/2020 at 4:25pm :
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of one of the hosts of the Staller Center Gala; the correct spelling is Kelli O’Hara, not Kelly O’Hara.


A previous version of this article stated that Michael Bernstein’s current title is provost. The article has been updated to show his correct title, Interim President Micheal Bernstein.


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