“John Kelly is one of my favorite performers in the whole world. It's not just that he is brilliant in so many mediums but every time I come away from seeing his work, or indeed even just speaking with him, I'm inspired to be a better artist.”   

                                                                             Alan Cumming


"As a performance and visual artist, John blazes a new path with each project.  He is drawn to other artists like Brecht, Egon Schiele and Joni Mitchell and gets beneath them with the insight of a scholar, but brings new life to their work with the energy of contemporary dance and performance.  He crosses into so many worlds with quiet authority and excellence."               

                                                                              James Franco


“...Kelly suddenly sheds his costume, creating a moment that is strangely profound: when he steps out of his role and faces the audience, you find yourself unsettled, affected.  He often gets a standing ovation.  “I’m very proud of that moment,” he said.”   

                                                                       Ariel Levy, The New Yorker


“This excursion into dreamland is a lovely condensation of what Mr. Kelly has achieved again and again in his three decades as a boundary-defying performance artist.  The transformation both haunts and charms, hinting at the perils and delights of losing yourself in another's identity.  It is also a moment that manages to suggest an elaborate interior labyrinth with a few fluid physical gestures, steeped in the kind of artful simplicity that poets are always striving for.”                                                   Ben Brantley, The New York Times


“Whether singing Brecht-Weill (‘Nana's Lied’) or the Bee Gees (‘Holiday’), Mr. Kelly aspires to an art singer's pristine lyricism and clarity of diction.  When he sings, he brings the taste, attitude and high style of a great art-song interpreter to the stage along with a self-mocking sense of humor about his own high-flown estheticism.”                                                  Stephen Holden, The New York Times


New York musician and performance artist John Kelly impersonates Joni Mitchell in the same way someone who dresses in white and jumps a motorcycle over the Grand Canyon impersonates Evel Knievel—by re-creating his subject's amazing accomplishments before our eyes. Kelly's got his Mitchell down, from her alto coos and trills to her twisty chords and time signatures. The only thing keeping it from being overwhelmingly uncanny is the loving, hilarious winks Kelly slips into his otherwise pristine embodiment.”                                       David Schmader, The Stranger, Seattle


“Gifted with a fascinating presence, and an enormous talent, he’s a performer seeking a reason to perform, in an era that seems to rebuke all reason and turn all art into commercialized dreck.”                                              Michael Feingold, The Village Voice


“...it feels as if there's really only one word for the way Kelly plays with a famous, complicated persona and with our own ideas of the person behind that mask. It's genius”.

                                                                    Louise Kennedy, The Boston Globe


“The first time I saw John Kelly perform was as the Mona Lisa at Brian Butterick's short-lived ‘Disco Interruptus’.  The theme of the club that week was popes and religious icons... For some reason I had been hired to gogo dance as a pregnant nun. I stood in my pathetic costume and observed the master at work. Then as now, he was radiant with integrity; he became my role model as a performing artist. Later at the Pyramid Club, he sang an aria from ‘Samson and Delilah’ as Dagmar Onassis.  His last soprano peals rang out in all their perfection, and the dingy barroom was transformed into an Italian Opera house.  I can still hear the audience's thunderous applause and cries of pleasure... "Bravo!  Encore!"   In Charles Atlas' film ‘Son of Sam and Delilah’, John's performance of this aria is immortalized in all it's grace and glory.  I am a student of John Kelly's reverie of creative process, his tireless and fruitful search for the transcendental form.  He is one of my heroes.”

                                                                           Antony, of Antony and The Johnsons


“Yet I did find John Kelly's ‘Paved Paradise’ profound, or, at the very least, profoundly moving, so that's the slope we're skiing.”                      David Frankel, ARTFORUM 


''There's drag, and then there's transformation through spiritual osmosis, and that's what John Kelly accomplishes with this tribute to the queen of the singer-songwriters.  Every blue note, every toss of the golden mane captures Ms. (Joni) Mitchell's singular aura and communicates why a man like Mr. Kelly would fetishize her persona rather than playing just another variation on Joan Crawford. Magnificent.”  

                                                                                     Ann Powers, The New York Times


“But it is annoying to find superlatives like “genius” continually tagged on each promising upstart who heads East (Village, that is) in search of fame, etc.  Such indiscriminate praise not only for stunts these artists’ growth; it leaves a critic like me struggling to convince this jaded world about a truly extraordinary artist like John Kelly.”


                                                                                   Dennis Cooper, The New York Native


“I felt like I was Huck Finn attending his own funeral or Jimmy Stewart in that movie where the angel walks him back through his life.  I was braced for a lampooning, and I didn’t expect to be so touched.  I cried in two places.  During the song ‘Shadows And Light’, my boyfriend and the woman who does my makeup and I were clutching each other and sobbing.”  

                                                                                         Joni Mitchell


“Kelly’s storyboards and choreographic charts were visual marvels in themselves, and illuminating in reference to the show, as were John Dugdale’s “30’s-style photographs of Kelly as Cesare (the Somnambulist).”                            John Howell, ARTFORUM


“He seems to live his most awful and wonderful inner conflicts at the moment of role-playing itself, which is for him the moment of Song.  He seems to be searching for an identity.  But once he locates his multiple selves in the music, he lives more intensely, his utterances are more profound, and his effect on the audience is the silence of stunned compassion.”

                                                                              Marcia B. Slegel, NY Press


“But one work really polarized the audience: David del Tredici's ‘This Solid Ground’, a group of songs-in-progress, which were heart-stoppingly exposed and lush, and sung with an arresting, raw, and nakedly non-classical voice by John Kelly, the performance artist.”   

                                                                        Greg Sandow, The Wall Street Journal 


“With ‘Find My Way Home’, director-choreographer-actor-dancer-singer John Kelly seals his claim to the role of our Cocteau.  First as a solo performer in late-night club sketches and recently as the auteur of full-blown, mixed-media performances, Kelly has developed and refined in his works an ambience of sensitive narcissism and soulful vision singularly reminiscent of the great French filmmaker and dilettante.”     John Howell, 7 Days


“I am so happy that after all these years of being one of your distant admirers that I had the chance to come closer--you are such an amazing talent and sweet soul.”  

                                                                                            Natalie Merchant


“One of this season's most astonishing performance pieces was John Kelly's ‘Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte’, a freeform analysis of the life and work of the painter Egon Schiele.  The artist was played by Mr. Kelly himself, whose cadaverous figure seemed an exact stage approximation of the Schiele that has been preserved in photographs and self-portraits.”

                                                                                  Mel Gussow, The New York Times 


“His artistic versatility is legendary in the downtown arts scene, and deservedly so.  It's hard to think of another performer who has so successfully maneuvered through so many different artistic disciplines.  He is, for me, among the most interesting artists alive.”

                                                                                 David Roman, Theatre Journal 2000


“Kelly is the only performer I know who can convey tragedy, slapstick, and an abstract lightness through a single gesture.”                   Dennis Cooper, New York Native 


“He can do more things well than most solo artists—he's more charismatic than most of them too, a half-magical figure, his lithe dancer's musculature topped by wistful face and Walter Keane eyes—and his innate good taste keeps the wide range of his interests from seeming merely random.”                                                             Michael Feingold, The Village Voice


“The extrordinary singer, actor, artist, and dancer John Kelly has created performances in which he portrays poet Antonin Artaud, painter Egon Schiele, and even the Mona Lisa herself. For several years now he’s also been putting on a dress and blonde wig to perform the songs of Joni Mitchell, most recently in a series of sold-out concerts at Fez. His portrayal of the great singer/songwriter conveys intelligence, sensitivity and kindness, as well as humor. Watching Kelly perform can be wonderful, but his expressive counter-tenor voice does such beautiful things with Mitchell’s songs that it makes for great listening even without the dress and wig.”      

                                                                                       David Garland, WNYC


"The effect of this unusually intimate performance piece, which combines dance, song and monologue, is at once amusing, unsettling and moving.  The lonely character that emerges from his exploration is the most demanding, teasing and haunting he has yet conjured up."      

                                                                         D.J.R. Bruckner, The New York Times 


“Kelly is Lord Byron, not Robin Williams, at his best when he gives sway to the true poet shining through his baleful gaze.  His quiet beauty is the strongest argument against easy-come silliness…in what is finally a heroic tribute to Schumann, Heine, the wonderful intimacy of lieder, and the unrecoverable romantic spirit.  Kelly is that choir of nightingales, both the singer and the song.”                                                       Gordon Rogoff, The Village Voice


“But its success as rich visual theater and inspired poetic presentation of a painful and emotional situation is singular.  Knowing when to spell things out and call upon words is part of the reason for Akin's power. Indicating AIDS itself, without spelling it out, is perhaps another.”   

                                                                 Robert Greskovic,  Dance USA Journal


“The quirkily brilliant came last, capping a sweltering evening with John Kelly's production of Matthew Locke’s ‘Cupid and Death’… His work was elevated from the tawdry to the wittily Ludlamesque by some truly funny acting, especially by Mr. Kelly himself as Death; he also sang, with a pungent countertenor.  Such double takes haven't been seen since Buster Keaton; may Mr. Kelly address another opera soon.”      John Rockwell, The New York Times


“The ‘Far From Heaven’ diorama induces a vertiginous disorientation—what (Todd) Haynes calls "an ignited, electrified distance that can happen with a certain kind of representational experience." He likens it to watching performance artist John Kelly as Joni Mitchell: "He sounds just like Joni Mitchell, he imitates her stage banter, he's in drag and looks like a ghoulish version of the little pixie Joni Mitchell from the '60s. You're laughing, but you're laughing at yourself, at your own intensely serious investment in Joni Mitchell when you were in high school. But you're also crying, at the beauty of the music, and for that person in high school who loved those songs and who you feel rekindled. There's this freedom to go from one emotion to the next, neither one undermining the other. If the real Joni Mitchell was up there, you'd be going, oh god she's older, oh she can't hit that same note—you get caught up in all the discrepancies of the real. There's something about a beautiful surrogate that opens up this wealth of feeling that you wouldn't have with the real thing."    

                                                                                                      Todd Haynes


“I saw John Kelly, and he did a lot of my early work beautifully—from a spirit point of view, beautifully—and he’s in his mid-thirties I think.  And in drag, to boot, and singing in a full tenor voice, some of them, not even imitating me, just singing them with all his heart.  He sang ‘Night In The City’, which I think of as a childlike ditty, and like I was a ghost at my own funeral I saw the audience respond and I heard the song, it gave me some perspective on it that I never had.”        

                                                                                                       Joni Mitchell 


“It is a testament to John Kelly that even the distractingly beautiful Ms. (Nicole) Kidman could not divert attention from his performance…ultimately it is about John Kelly and his brilliance and courage.”                                                               Culturebot 


“Kelly has a genius for playing melodrama absolutely straight, and his performances suspend us between derision and heartbreak.”                            

                                                                                  Marcia B. Siegel, NY Press 


“Not content to merely adopt one persona as a constant alter ego, Kelly takes a new character with almost every project.  Each embodiment, whether true historically or entirely fictional, is finely crafted through imitation and sweet emulation.  His performances are filled with wonder and understanding.”                                    

                                                                            Emily Harney, Gay City News


“With admiration,”                                                              Stephen Sondheim


“An incredible talent,”                                                                          Tippi Hedren