Audra McDonald Brings Concert Tour to Carnegie Hall Tonight
With four Tony Awards and two Grammy Awards, the Juilliard-trained Audra McDonald returns to performing live full-time this month following four seasons playing Dr. Naomi Bennett on ABC's hit television series Private Practice. Currently starring alongside Norm Lewis in A.R.T.'s PORGY AND BESS, the Broadway-bound singer will make a stop at Carnegie Hall as a part of her 20-city concert tour across North America. McDonald will present her trademark mix of show tunes, classic songs from movies, and pieces written expressly for her by leading contemporary composers.
Born into a musical family, McDonald grew up in Fresno, California. One year after graduating with a degree in classical voice from the Juilliard School, she won her first Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel at Lincoln Center Theater, directed by Nicholas Hytner. She received two additional Tony Awards in the Featured Actress category over the next four years for her performances in the Broadway premieres of Terrence McNally's play Master Class (1996) and his musical Ragtime (1998), earning her an unprecedented three Tony Awards before turning 30. In 2004 she won her fourth Tony, starring alongside Sean "Diddy" Combs in A Raisin in the Sun. Her other theater credits include The Secret Garden (1993), Marie Christine (1999), Henry IV (2004), 110 in the Shade (2007), and, most recently, her Public Theater "Shakespeare in the Park" debut in Twelfth Night alongside Anne Hathaway and Raúl Esparza (2009).
McDonald made her opera debut in 2006 at Houston Grand Opera, which featured her in a double-bill of Poulenc's monodrama La voix humaine and the world premiere of Send, a companion-piece to the Poulenc written by one of her frequent collaborators, composer Michael John LaChiusa. She made her Los Angeles Opera debut in 2007 starring alongside Patti LuPone in John Doyle's production of Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The resulting recording won McDonald two Grammy Awards, for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album.
On the concert stage, she has premiered music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams and sung with virtually every major American orchestra - including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony - and under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Leonard Slatkin. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas in a season-opening concert that was broadcast live on PBS. Internationally, she is a returning guest at the BBC Proms in London (where she was only the second American in more than 100 years to solo on the famed "Last Night of the Proms" at the Royal Albert Hall) and at the Théatre du Chatelet in Paris, as well as with the London Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic.
McDonald was first introduced to television audiences as a dramatic actress in the Peabody Award-winning CBS program Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years. She went on to co-star with Kathy Bates and Victor Garber in the lauded 1999 Disney/ABC television remake of Annie, and in 2000 she had a recurring role on NBC's hit series Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. After receiving her first Emmy nomination for her performance in the HBO film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Emma Thompson, McDonald returned to network television in 2003 in the political drama Mister Sterling, produced by Emmy Award-winner Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. (The West Wing) and starring Josh Brolin. In early 2006 she joined the cast of the WB's The Bedford Diaries, and over the next season she had a recurring role on NBC's television series Kidnapped. In 2008 she reprised her Tony Award-winning role in A Raisin in the Sun in a made-for-television movie adaption, earning her a second Emmy Award nomination.
A familiar face on PBS, McDonald has headlined telecasts including an American Songbook season-opening concert, a presentation of Sondheim's Passion, a tribute concert to Rodgers and Hammerstein titled Something Wonderful, and three galas with the New York Philharmonic: a New Year Eve's solo performance in 2006, a concert celebrating Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday, and, most recently, Carnegie Hall's 120th Anniversary Concert. She was also featured in the PBS television special "A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House," singing at the request of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. McDonald has appeared twice on the Kennedy Center Honors, been profiled by 60 Minutes and the Today Show, been a guest on the Megan Mullally Show, the Rosie O'Donnell Show, and Tavis Smiley, and has guest co-hosted on The View with Barbara Walters.
McDonald's film career began with her role in Seven Servants in 1996, and her list of credits has since grown to include The Object of My Affection (1998), Cradle Will Rock (1999), It Runs in the Family (2003), The Best Thief in the World (2004), and She Got Problems (2009), a mockumentary movie musical written, starring, and directed by her sister, Alison McDonald. Audra McDonald appears in the upcoming film Rampart, starring Woody Harrelson.
As an exclusive Nonesuch recording artist, McDonald has released four solo albums on the label, interpreting songs from the classic (Gershwin, Arlen, and Bernstein) to the contemporary (Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel, and Ricky Ian Gordon). The New York Times named her first Nonesuch album, 1998's Way Back to Paradise, its Adult Record of the Year. Following the best-selling How Glory Goes in 2000 and Happy Songs in 2002, she released the 2006 album Build a Bridge, which saw the singer stretch her repertoire to include songs by the likes of Randy Newman, Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach, Rufus Wainwright, and Nellie McKay. Her ensemble recordings include the acclaimed EMI version of Bernstein's Wonderful Town conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, the New York Philharmonic release of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, and Dreamgirls in concert, as well as the first recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Allegro and Broadway cast albums of Carousel, Ragtime, Marie Christine, and 110 in the Shade. She is also featured on a number of audiovisual recordings available on DVD and Blu-ray, including Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, Weill - Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Bernstein - Wonderful Town, Audra McDonald - Live at the Donmar, London, and My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies.
McDonald's other accolades include three Drama Desk Awards, two Outer Critics Circle Awards, four NAACP Image Awards nominations, an Ovation Award, and a Theatre World Award. Besides her four Tony wins, she received nominations for her performances in Marie Christine and 110 in the Shade.
In addition to her professional obligations, Audra McDonald is an ardent proponent of marriage equality and sits on the advisory board of the advocacy organization Broadway Impact. Earlier this summer, days before the groundbreaking decision to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, McDonald travelled to Albany with celebrity chef Mario Batali to join pro-marriage-equality marchers and lobby New York state senators at the state capitol building.