Nearly 10 years after playing lovebirds in The Light in the Piazza, Tony nominees Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Morrison are reuniting on stage. The pair will bring yuletide cheer to Carnegie Hall on December 19 and 20 in Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays, backed by the incomparable New York Pops and the Essential Voices choir. Morrison, who’s busy shooting Glee in Los Angeles, and O’Hara, in the midst of rehearsals for The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera, hopped on a conference call with us to recount their busy 2014, share cheesy Christmas traditions and plan an imaginary Hawaiian dream vacation.
Q: Kelli and Matt, you’re both on the line.
O’HARA: Matty, guess where I am! I’m in the breezeway at Lincoln Center, standing right in front of our The Light in the Piazza poster, looking at how young we were.
MORRISON: Aww, we were babies.
O’HARA: We look so happy!
MORRISON: We were. It kicked our asses, though.
Q: What’s the craziest memory you two have of working onPiazza?
MORRISON: For me, it was jumping on board when a lot of people had done it before. I was lost in this world of Italy and crazy operatic voices and I was like, “What am I doing here?!” I felt out of my comfort zone, but it was so rewarding.
O’HARA: My memory is [Matt’s] audition. I saw so many guys come through. I had never seen you before; I didn’t know who you were. I’ll never forget when you came in the room and it was just absolutely, unmistakably clear that you were going to be it.
Q: With the two of you currently on opposite coasts, what’s the preparation process been like for this concert?
O’HARA: Matt sends me recordings of him running through something so I can hear his part and I’m trying to learn my part. We haven’t even seen each other. The day before, we’re going to see each other for the first time to run through things.
MORRISON: Yeah, we’re basically learning this show on our own and then we’ll come together. Which I’m not worried about, because we already have this built-in chemistry.
Q: What makes performing an iconic space like Carnegie Hall so special?
MORRISON: Kelli, you’ve performed there before, right?
O’HARA: Yeah. It’s fantastic. There’s a great history to it. There’s a vast expanse that makes you feel pretty powerful. Well, you feel like a tiny little ant, but powerful at the same time. And that huge orchestra and ensemble—The Essential Voices—what it is is empowering.
MORRISON: I’ve only performed there once in a benefit concert, so I’m really excited to take more ownership of the evening with one of my dear friends.
Q: Matt, what are you looking forward to most about bringingFinding Neverland to Broadway this spring?
MORRISON: I think we’ve all grown up with Peter Pan in our lives. What I love about Finding Neverland is the story behind the story. It has great themes of using your imagination and never growing up and keeping that child inside of you always. It’s such a great message.
Q: And Kelli, you just wrapped up your own Peter Pan experience. How does it feel now that it’s all over?
O’HARA: I’ve done [long runs of shows], and there is something beautiful about that, because it gets richer and you can deepen your performance. But I’m also a person who loves to do lots of things and move on. So I was OK to do it and then step away and go back to something else.
Q: What’s your all-time favorite Christmas song?
MORRISON: I have to say, every time I hear “O Holy Night”…
O’HARA: [Laughs.] That’s mine too!
MORRISON: Good! There was a debate of who was going to sing that song at the concert, and all I want to do is hear Kelli sing it.
Q: What can we look forward to hearing you sing, Matt?
MORRISON: I’m going to add a little Hawaiian flair to the evening. I’m singing “Mele Kalikimaka,” which is the traditional Hawaiian Christmas song, and I’m going to bust out my ukulele.
Q: What’s the must-have dish on your Christmas dinner table?
O’HARA: CHEESE GRITS.
MORRISON: Oh, you’re so freakin’ country. I love you.
O’HARA: I’m southern! We always have cheese grits.
MORRISON: I think I’ve had them. Is that your family recipe cheese grits?
O’HARA: You’ve had cheese grits at least three or four times from me.
MORRISON: Oh, those are so good. That’s my answer, too. Kelli’s family recipe cheese grits. For Kelli’s wedding, one of the coolest things was this recipe booklet as a gift from her family, which I still use to this day.
Q: What is your favorite family Christmas tradition?
O’HARA: My mom does themed Christmases. So every year, the dinner is themed. It’s actually really fun because it makes every Christmas the same but different. She gets pretty creative.
Q: Do you know what this year’s theme is?
O’HARA: No, it’s always a surprise.
Q: Maybe you could do Hawaiian this year and have Matt play the ukulele.
MORRISON: Let’s do it in Hawaii!
MORRISON: [Christmas] has been my one break from Glee, so my wife and I always get on a plane on Christmas Day. We pick a place to go and head to the airport. I’m sure when we have kids that’ll change, and we’ll have some new family traditions.
O’HARA: No, that’s perfect! You can wake up, do your Santa Claus, and then go right to the airport and go to a brilliant island and swim in the ocean. And I’m going to come along as your nanny. With my kids!
Catch Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Morrison at Carnegie Hall on December 19 and 20.