Born in central Massachusetts, Jean Louisa Kelly was raised in a family of musical talents. Her first stage appearance was her second grade Christmas play, but she was truly bitten by the theater bug when she had two lines of dialogue as Marta in The Sound of Music. By the time she was a teenager, Kelly spent almost every day at ballet, tap and jazz dance classes, as well as voice lessons. Her first professional job was the title role in the musical Annie, at Theatre by the Sea in Rhode Island, followed by a number of other musicals and plays in the New England area.
When she was 14, Kelly competed in a contest called “Talent America” and made it to the finals in New York City singing a medley of songs from “Funny Girl.” Through the contest, in which she won Second Place, she landed an agent, and the following year, she auditioned for the original Broadway cast of Into the Woods. Kelly was cast in the role of Snow White and the understudy of Little Red and Rapunzel, both of which she performed during her time with the show. During this time, she lived in New York and attended the Professional Children’s School.
The following year, Kelly’s family moved to Maryland and she booked the role of Tia in the John Hughes film “Uncle Buck,” starring John Candy. Upon completing the movie, she returned to Maryland to finish high school. She then earned her B.A. in English Literature from Columbia College at Columbia University in New York City. Upon graduating, she quickly booked an MCI commercial. Soon after, she got her next big break, playing singer Rowena Morgan in the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” starring Richard Dreyfus. Within a year, she was singing again as Luisa in Michael Ritchie’s musical film “The Fantasticks.”
During the next few years, Kelly got married, and she and her husband bought an apartment in New York City. She appeared onstage in numerous musicals and did several television movies and guest spots, including a recurring role as Nurse Diane on the NBC sitcom “Mad About You.” She was also a regular in the NBC dramedy “Cold Feet.” Her next big project was the CBS sitcom, “Yes, Dear,” in which she starred as Kim Warner, a role that garnered her a Young Artist Award nomination. During her hiatuses, she also performed in many musicals in the Los Angeles area, such as Company, Pippin and Applause, as well as playing the title role in It Girl off-Broadway in New York City.
Since “Yes, Dear,” Kelly has guest starred on the shows “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Ghost Whisperer,” “Eli Stone,” “Gary Unmarried” and “Surviving Suburbia.” She appeared as Lois Lane in the New York and Los Angeles performances of It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman! and has been a soloist for numerous charity events and benefits.
She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.