Kelly, who was also a dancer, choreographer and singer, had her breakthrough role of Helene in Bob Fosse’s 1969 film Sweet Charity, sharing the screen with star Shirley MacLaine and Chita Rivera in such musical numbers as “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” and the showstopper “Hey, Big Spender.” She’d already played the role in a West End stage production.
Other film credits include The Andromeda Strain (1971), Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored (1995).
Kelly appeared in numerous TV series from the 1970s through the ’90s, including Sanford & Son, Medical Center, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Woman and The Richard Pryor Show. In one memorable performance, she played an arrogant doctor called upon to treat the young Janet Jackson’s character in a 1979 episode of CBS’ Good Times.
In 1984, she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance as Night Court‘s public defender Liz Williams.
Her second supporting actress Emmy nomination came in in 1989, when she played the lesbian Theresa in the two-night miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.
Other television credits include a mid-’80s run on daytime’s Santa Barbara, and co-choreographing, with Michael Kidd, BBC’s 1976 presentation of Peter Pan.