BWW Reviews: Audra McDonald Wows Austin in One Night Only Concert
It's entirely appropriate that the first syllable of Audra McDonald's name is pronounced "awe." Anyone who's heard a recording of her voice knows how incredible she sounds, and anyone who's seen her in concert knows how engrossing she is. With her gorgeous, crystal clear soprano voice, incredible stage presence, and charismatic, engaging persona, Audra McDonald is one of the best Broadway performers of all time, and despite her self-deprecating jokes about her age and career, it's doubtful that she'll slow down soon if at all.
Though I'm sure you must know of Audra McDonald and her illustrious career (you are reading this on BroadwayWorld, after all), it's fun to reflect on all she's done. In the past 20 years, Ms. McDonald has racked up five Tony Awards, winning the first three by age 28. As she's now 43, hardly old for any Broadway performer of her caliber, it's safe to assume that she could win another five over the next 20 years. Honestly, the American Theatre Wing and Broadway League might consider engraving her name on five more statues right now.
So why this love letter to Audra? Well, aside from the obvious (she's Audra FRIGGIN McDonald!), she's an outstanding concert performer, as anyone who saw her at The Long Center can attest to. McDonald's nearly two hour concert is a modest, low key valentine to Broadway. She's just as much a musical theater historian as she is a performer. Her set list, a mix of a few popular tunes and a slew of fantastic but obscure ones, showcases all of her talents. While McDonald sang well-known songs like "I Could Have Danced All Night," "Climb Every Mountain, and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the majority of the evening featured songs that, as McDonald says, are off the beaten path. Even when selecting songs written by the more prolific musical theater composers, McDonald veers towards their less popular tunes. When the time comes to sing an Irving Berlin song, McDonald does "Moonshine Lullaby" from Annie Get Your Gun. When Sondheim gets his turn, the song is "Moments in the Woods" from Into the Woods. When it's Kander and Ebb, Audra sings "Go Back Home" from Scottsboro Boys. Of course, the song selection isn't that important. This is Audra McDonald. She could sing something as terrible as Rebecca Black's "Friday" and make it sound good. But the best moment in the evening is when she sits behind the piano to sing a song in tribute to her father, who tragically passed away several years ago. It's a touching and incredibly emotional moment, but once the moment's passed, you realize that you've just seen a five time Tony Award winning actress and singer play the piano, and she's just as strong there as she is in her other disciplines. Once again, you can't say Audra without "awe."
For tour dates and other information regarding Audra McDonald, please visit http://audramcdonald.net. For more information regarding The Long Center for the Performing Arts, please visit www.thelongcenter.org