Audra McDonald walks on stage in a tight brown and gold gown showing off a figure to die for and when she opens her mouth to sing, even if you never heard her before, you hear glorious tones.Seth Rudetsky, the host and pianist, mentions a few times her record winning 6 Tony awards in the 4 major acting categories, and 3 Emmy nominations, validating her abilities as an actor. What you may not know, and I discovered, in what Rudetsky calls their ‘sing and chat show’, Audra McDonald is a very funny person. She doesn’t hesitate telling stories about herself that make her the butt of the joke whether it is not getting a role in school at the age of 12 in “Annie” and the reason she gives why she didn’t or attending a movie premiere and not being recognized, or allowed on, the red carpet, moaning about the fact that even her mother, who was there as her guest, didn’t even take a picture of her.
At one point she talks about her work for, and with, the Covenant House, a charity serving homeless youth with a network of shelters across the Americas, that you see the depth of her humanity.
Mostly McDonald talks about her teen years, coming to New York, trying out for shows and her audition to get into Juilliard where she received classical vocal training, again with many laughs at herself.
Whether singing “Make Someone Happy” or a very funny Lieder song or a singalong of “I Could Have Danced All Night”, promoting a heartfelt ballad by a new Broadway composers Adam Gwon called “I’ll Be Here” about a lover killed on 9/11 and Jason Robert Brown’s “Star and Moons”, among others, to her last song, using her beautiful, soaring voice to sing “Climb Every Mountain” McDonald brings the audience to a well deserved standing ovation. You can just feel her joy of performing as she dazzles you with her smile. An added bonus was allowing the audience to see this very funny side of hers which I hope will translate into her being in a comedy.
Seth Rudetsky is an accomplished pianist, a show tune expert and McDonald’s friend for 24 years. In a role as host he steers the conversations to bring out her innate humor but at times talks way too fast and garbled a lot of his words though was very clear spoken when it came to his 10 minute ‘commercial’ for the next guest star, coming on Valentine’s Day, Cheyenne Jackson.
Should you ever get a chance to see Audra McDonald in this kind of setting don’t miss it and make sure she tells you her “Annie” or auditioning for Juilliard story!