BWW Review: AUDRA MCDONALD SPREADS LOVE AND HOPE AT NOORDA CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
Classy. Timeless. Talented. Exquisite.
It's nearly impossible to find the perfect combination of positive adjectives that properly describe Audra McDonald during a live performance.
In her recent show at the beautiful Noorda Center for the Performing Arts on the Utah Valley University campus in Orem, McDonald was absolutely captivating.
Having performed live theatre since she was nine years old, it's no surprise that she's perfectly composed and professional on stage.
Although, it was fun to witness some missed cues between she and her very talented music director and pianist, Andy Einhorn. They made the audience feel like part of the show and privy to their "secret" exchanges like lip-reading and funny hand signals. None of that mattered, though, once Einhorn struck a key and McDonald started singing again.
She wowed the crowd for a full hour and a half with an array of songs from the Great American Songbook. The songs ran the gamut from the early 1900s to as recent as 2016. Most of the them were lesser known numbers, which she beautifully introduced by providing their back story and why she chose them, and by sharing the lyricists, composers and musicals from which they originated. She made everyone feel like an insider when it came to her song choices.
McDonald also shared some funny personal anecdotes throughout the evening, including a couple of stories about when her very young children made it clear they didn't enjoy her singing. This, of course, left the audience in stitches. It's hard to imagine anyone ever asking Audra McDonald to stop singing, but then again, children can always be counted on to keep us humble, can't they?
One particularly touching moment in the night came when McDonald dedicated a song to the late Diahann Carroll, the first ever African American woman to win a Tony Award. McDonald said Carroll, who passed away just days before the concert, was a dear friend of hers, and that she owed her everything for paving the way for women of color in the theatre community. McDonald's performance of "A Sleeping Bee" was raw and brilliant, and the emotion in the room was palpable.
In a lighter and very honest moment, McDonald revealed that for years she avoided one particular song because it was too "popular" and she didn't want to sing it because, "everyone has sung this song...literally, everyone." But then she burst into My Fair Lady's, "I Could Have Danced All Night," and even lead the entire crowd in a sing-along chorus before hitting her signature high note and blowing everyone away.
McDonald is no stranger to success in the theatrical world, having won a record six Tony Awards; and being the only person to win all four acting categories. It was no act, though, when she sang the truly heartbreaking song, "I'll Be Here," from the off-Broadway musical, Ordinary Days, which touched on a woman's experience of love lost on 9/11. McDonald followed the song with some of her own personal memories of 9/11, having been a new mom at the time and now a New Yorker for more than 30 years.
Without getting political, McDonald addressed the turbulent times we're living in, and revealed some of her true passions in life, which mostly revolve around preserving our planet for the future success of our youth, and teaching the importance of equality, love and acceptance to future generations. Several of her songs expressed these desires in their own way, but I think she summed it up beautifully herself at the end of her show.
"Our humanity binds us together. Hold on to your humanity and spread love into the world," said McDonald, before closing with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which she said is a song she will never stop singing and always gives her hope.
Thank you, Audra, for sharing that hope with all of us.