BWW Review: Audra McDonald at Strathmore
In the pop music world there are certain artists who only need to be introduced by their first names. When you hear Cher, Madonna, or Barbara, there is instant recognition. The same holds true in the musical theatre world. When you hear the names Idina, Sutton, or Audra you know exactly who these people are. The latter, of course, is six-time Tony Award-winning actress, singer, and modern day goddess of the Great American Songbook Audra McDonald.
Ms. McDonald is a performer who could stand on the stage and sing the phonebook and it would sound like a piece of art. I have yet to hear her give a bad performance and her concert this past weekend at the Music Center at Strathmore was no exception. This was McDonald's last concert appearance before heading off to London for an engagement of her Tony Award-winning performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill.
McDonald started things off with a gorgeous Eric Stern arrangement and Larry Hochman orchestration of Bock and Harnick's "When Did I Fall in Love" from Fiorello. Things just kept getting better and better from there.
As McDonald is a big champion of newer writers, she then followed up with Jason Robert Brown's "Stars and the Moon" from Songs for a New World.
For those audience members that missed McDonald's amazing performance in Porgy and Bess on Broadway a few years back, you got a taste of it with a superb rendition of "Summertime."
Let's not forget that McDonald is also great when it comes to patter songs as well. This was illustrated by a Frank Loesser song called "Can't Stop Talking about Him," with featured her stellar trio of musicians Brian Hertz (piano/musical director), Mark Vanderpoel (upright and electric basses), and Gene "Gotta Give the Drummer Some" Lewin (drums/percussion) on backup vocals.
For a change of pace, McDonald chose a hilarious newish song by Kate Miller-Heidke about the trials and tribulations of being on Facebook. Profanity laden or not, I laughed out loud.
We cannot forget that McDonald is a huge supporter of gay marriage and other social equality movements. With songs like Kander and Ebb's "Go Back Home," and classics like "Over the Rainbow" and
"Climb Every Mountain," you see the person and not just the star at her fullest and brightest.
All being said, a performance that transports the audience in musical theatre heaven isn't a bad way to start off a holiday weekend. McDonald and her trio hit all the high notes throughout the evening and, my dear readers, left us on the "Wheels of a Dream" until McDonald's next area performance.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Audra McDonald was a one-night-only performance at the Music Center at Strathmore on May 26. 2017.
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