BWW Reviews: Audra McDonald Enchants at Wolf Trap
An evening with - the only - six-time Tony Award recipient Audra McDonald is more than listening to her rich, versatile voice sing both older and more recent treasures. Ms. McDonald chooses songs that have strong stories both for her and within the song itself. Her ability to capture these narratives through her voice is one of the many reasons Ms. McDonald is such a brilliant actress and singer. The opportunity to see Ms. McDonald work her magic live is enchanting, to say the least.
Ms. McDonald graced Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center in Vienna, Virginia, accompanied by the renowned National Symphony Orchestra. Ms. McDonald's Music Director, Andy Einhorn, conducted the orchestra, and Brian Hertz (piano), Mark Vanderpoel (bass), and Gene Lewin (drums) also performed with Ms. McDonald and travel with her on tour. The repertoire included classics by Frank Loesser, Stephen Sondheim, Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan, and Oscar Hammerstein II.
As Ms. McDonald proves over and over again, she is a dazzling performer with mesmerizing vocal talent. Ms. McDonald and the National Symphony Orchestra melted together, providing a night filled with both vocal and instrumental bliss. After nearly every song, the audience roared in applause, each tune just as special as the last. The choices in repertoire, along with its order, created a shared emotional experience amongst the audience, proving just how gifted Ms. McDonald and Andy Einhorn are with compiling a program that makes a musical performance much, much deeper.
The evening had numerous highlights. Ms. McDonald sang one of her favorites: Jason Robert Brown's "Stars and the Moon" from Songs for a New World. Andy Einhorn, along with a couple of other members of Ms. McDonald's ensemble, pulled out their ukeleles for Cole Porter's humorous "Let's Not Talk About Love." Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's "I Had Myself A True Love" showcased Ms. McDonald's smooth and velvety voice. Her smoldering "Summertime," by George Gershwin, was an audience surprise and favorite.
Though Ms. McDonald comedically explained her numerous years of avoiding inclusion of "Frederick Loewe's "I Could Have Danced All Night" (due to its mass popularity), she used the song to create an entertaining interaction with the audience, successfully encouraging everyone to sing along. Also on the more humorous side of the evening, Ms. McDonald poked fun at her own classical training; she sang selections from Gabriel Kahane's "Craigslistlieder," which sets Craigslist ads to music. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, Ms. McDonald's and the National Symphony Orchestra's sensitive performances of John Kander and Fred Ebb's "Go Back Home," from The Scottsboro Boys, and Adam Gwon's "I'll be Here," from Ordinary Days" were tearjerkers for the audience and Ms. McDonald herself. Complimenting the emotions set forth throughout the evening, Wolf Trap's colorful but modest lighting design accentuated the mood of each song.
Ms. McDonald's performance with the National Symphony Orchestra was an evening not only filled with first-class music, but also a gracious, sincere, and down-to-earth person: Ms. McDonald. If Ms. McDonald's vocal tour comes to town, it will truly be a mesmerizing event not to miss.
Audra McDonald performed a one-night-only concert at Wolf Trap - 1635 Trap Road in Vienna, Virginia on June 22, 2015. For a list of her upcoming concerts, consult her official website: http://audramcdonald.net/ .
Photo by: Autumn de Wilde