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A spunky performer with a mass of curly reddish hair and a sweet, innocent air, Jean Louisa Kelly first came to the attention of filmgoers as John Candy's bratty niece, appalled by his antics, in the John Hughes comedy "Uncle Buck" (1989). She further solidified her standing as a rising starlet as the dewy-eyed student who develops a crush on her music teacher (Richard Dreyfuss) in "Mr. Holland's Opus" (1995). A stage veteran, Kelly has also amassed an impressive resume with a wide array of small screen work. While it would seem the musical theater appeals most to her (she has variously been announced to co-star in aborted shows like "The Jazz Singer" and "Little Women"), the actress settled into the routine of series work in the fall of 1999 in NBC's romantic comedy-drama "Cold Feet."
The Massachusetts native began studying voice and dance at an early age and made her professional debut in the title role of the famous orphan singing about "Tomorrow" in a summer stock production of "Annie" in 1983. Kelly went on to appear around New England in various theatrical productions and competed in "Talent America" in 1985, placing second with a medley from "Funny Girl" and landing an agent. Fulfilling a dream, she made her Broadway debut in the tiny role of Snow White in the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical "Into the Woods" (1987-88) and understudied the larger roles of Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood.
After making an auspicious screen debut alongside scene-stealer Macauley Culkin in "Uncle Buck," Kelly took several years off to attend Columbia University. Resuming her career, she landed a small role in the CBS "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation "Breathing Lesson" (1994) and appeared in commercials for Ogilvie shampoo and MCI. While one might have thought her noticeable turn in "Mr. Holland's Opus" might have led to big screen stardom, Kelly instead found regular employment on the small screen, often in period dramas like "Tad" (The Family Channel, 1995) and "The Day Lincoln Was Shot" (TNT, 1998). In the contemporary, short-lived Americanized "Cold Feet" (NBC, 1999), she lent her charisma and screen presence to Shelley, a twentysomething struggle with romantic commitment. Kelly returned to sitcoms playing an overly concerned stay-at-home mom in the "Yes, Dear" (CBS, 2000-06).
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