BWW Review: Audra McDonald Reigns Celestial At Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

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In a wondrous display of vocal eloquence and personal charm, AUDRA MCDONALD kindled the fire of adulation among the 853 fans who occupied the Virginia G. Piper Theater at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. (Saturday, January 28th)

Stopping by Scottsdale on her national tour, Ms. McDonald demonstrated why she stands as one of the select iconic voices of Broadway, let alone as a highly versatile performing artist. With an unprecedented six Tony Awards under her belt plus the recent SAG nomination for her role as Billie Holliday, she delivered a full throttle performance of tunes by both famous and up-and-coming songwriters.

Playing both piano accompanist and host, Seth Rudetsky, the flamboyant host of Sirius/XM's On Broadway and Seth Speaks and, as it turns out, her classmate at Juilliard) livened up the evening with intermittent interviews that amounted to personal conversations with the audience and revealed the singer's background, private life, and personal commitments. The result was a portrait of an artist with a deep sense of humanity, an infectious sense of humor, and an abiding love of family. To wit, her newborn was nearby in the Green Room ~ and her equally talented husband, Will Swenson, joined her on stage, first to give her a brief break to join baby, then to enthrall the audience with his dashing rendition of I Am A Pirate King (H.M.S. Pinafore), and finally, to share an endearing duet of You Don't Give Me Flowers.

Her selections for the evening encompassed a range of themes, and her interpretations of each were inspired and inspiring ~ When Did I Fall in Love? From Fiorello; A Lullaby by Ricky Ian Gordon, and Jason Robert Brown's Stars and the Moon (Songs for A New World).

At times, she invited the audience to join her in song (I Could Have Danced All Night). Throughout, she spoke of the experiences ~ the aspirations, the detours, the rejections, and the accolades ~ that defined her as an artist. How to take a large hall and transform it into an intimate living and loving room! All told, she established a connection with the audience that spelled community.

What further defined and deepened this sense of community were the final notes of the evening.

To address the challenges of current times, she closed the formal concert with a moving reprise of Climb Every Mountain, which, as Mother Abbess, she had sung in the 2013 TV Live version of The Sound of Music. But, back on stage for an encore, she put her seal on the performance and tightened the connection when she revealed her personal daily mantra, embedded in Jimmy Durante's Make Someone Happy, and invited all to share the vision.

No doubt, when the lights went up and the house was cleared, everybody was happy and, hopefully, invested in the message.

Photo credit to Autumn de Wilde

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From This Author Herbert Paine