*Audra McDonald will star as Billie Holliday this spring in the Broadway production “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” a musical that imagines one of Holiday’s last performances in 1959.
Producers said Tuesday that the five-time Tony Award-winner will star as an ailing Holiday in a small club in Philadelphia, where she will let loose on such timeless classics as “Somebody’s On My Mind,” ”Don’t Explain” and “Strange Fruit.”
Previews begin March 25 at the Circle in the Square Theatre and opening night is set for April 13. The venue will allow some lucky members of the audience to sit at tables onstage.
Actress Audra McDonald attends the 8th Annual Made in NY Awards at Gracie Mansion on June 10, 2013 in New York City
*Broadway star and “Private Practice” alum Audra McDonald joins Laura Benanti and Christian Borle as newcomers to the cast of NBC’s live Dec. 5 broadcast of “The Sound of Music.”
McDonald, a five-time Tony winner, will portray Mother Abbess with Laura Benanti as Elsa Schrader and Borle as Max Dettweiler.
Carrie Underwood is set to star as Maria with “True Blood’s” Stephen Moyer as World War I hero Capt. Georg Von Trapp. The three-hour production will be based on the original 1959 Broadway musical, which starred Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel.
The music and lyrics for “The Sound of Music” were written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, respectively, with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.
2013 Tony Awards: Host Neil Patrick Harris and Mike Tyson perform in the opening number at Radio City Music Hall in New York City (June 9, 2013)
*Actor Neil Patrick Harris hosted a diversity-filled Tony Awards ceremony Sunday night that included Mike Tyson dancing in the opening number and Audra McDonald belting the chorus of closing number “Empire State of Mind,” which was altered with lyrics written during the show to reflect the evening’s highlights.
In the three hours between, Courtney B. Vance won Best Featured Actor in a Play for Lucky Guy, Billy Porter took home Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Kinky Boots, Patina Miller nabbed Best Leading Actress in a Musical for Pippin, and Cicely Tyson of The Trip to Bountiful got a standing ovation from the Radio City Music Hall audience when her name was called for Best Leading Actress in a Play.
Tyson then had folks emotional by expressing her simple gratitude for living long enough to act one more time in a great role on Broadway.
2013 Tony Award winners actors Courtney Vance and Cicely Tyson attends the 2013 Tony Awards – Gala at The Plaza Hotel on June 9, 2013 in New York City
Below, read the full acceptance speeches from Vance, Porter, Miller and Tyson. Scroll down to watch highlights from the ceremony.
Courtney B. Vance, Lucky Guy, Best Featured Actor in a Play:
WHAT?! Thank you very much. I’d like to thank the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League. I’d like to thank my wife who gave me the nod, Angela Bassett, to do this role. I’d like to thank my children Broman and Slater, my Lucky Guy family, Tom Hanks, cast and crew, George C. Wolfe. I’d like to thank my manager, Steven Siebert and the Gersch Agency who pushed me real hard to come to NY to do this. And I would finally like to thank my sister, Cecile, and my mother. Mom, this one’s for you.
Billy Porter accepts the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his role in “Kinky Boots” at The 67th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 9, 2013 in New York City
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots, Best Leading Actor in a Musical:
OOOOH MY GODDDD!!!! OH MY GOD! Ok, ok, so, um, I’m going to put this on the ground. Ok, so… Shakespeare said, “To thyne own self be true.” When I was 11 years old, my journey to truth began when I discovered the Tony Awards washing dishes in my kitchen, and the performance of Jennifer Holiday and the cast of Dreamgirls at the Tony Awards took my breath away. That moment changed my life. And I am here today. I want to thank my family, the best sister that a brother could ever have, Mary Martha Ford, my mother at home in Pittsburgh…. You are the personification of true Christianity, your willingness to embrace that which you don’t understand with unconditional love is a template that the world could benefit from employing. Your courage gives me life and I love you. To my Kinky Boots family. To the amazing cast and crew and everybody at the Al Hishfield Theatre. Our producers, Hal Luftig and Daryl Roth. To Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper, who created the template that allows me to express the journey of forgiveness and acceptance, and ultimately a necessary healing for my soul. To Jerry Mitchell for reaching back, lifting up an old friend and giving me a space to soar. To my co-star, Stark Sands. You are my rock, my sword, my shield, your grace gives me presence. I share this award with you. I’m gonna keep it at my house, but I share it with you. To my glam squad, who keeps Ms. Lola fierce every day, I love you. To my patrons, Susy Deans, George C. Wolfe, Tracy Brigdon, Bill Butler, my manager of 22 years, and everybody, God bless you. I love you, I love you, I love you.
Cicely Tyson, winner of the award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for ‘The Trip to Bountiful’, (L) and Patina Miller, winner of the award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for ‘Pippin’, attend The 67th Annual Tony Awards green room at Radio City Music Hall on June 9, 2013 in New York City
Patina Miller, Pippin, Best Leading Actress in a Musical:
OHHHH God, Oh my God, this is an honor of a lifetime! This is a childhood dream come true for me. From a little southern girl in South Carolina with a big dream of wanting to come to this big city and be a part of this thing, this Broadway community and to be standing on stage in front of so many people I admire. So much in this room to the women in my category. You guys are inspiring, and I just am so in awe of all of you. I just want to say thank you to my cast. The most amazing cast in New York City right now, who knows? Um, you guys, I cannot do without you. This has been an ensemble effort and I love each and every one of you. To our amazing crew at the Music Box Theatre. To the creative team. Diane Paulus. Oh my God. You visionary. Thank you for giving me this opportunity and believing in me. Chet Walker, for giving me the gift of Fosse. Gypsy Snider for giving me the circus. To our amazing producers. Please wrap it up. The Voicelers and the Kagans and everyone else. Thank you so much. To my mom, who has been my inspiration. Thank you so much for believing in me and telling me that I could do anything I wanted to do. And to my step dad, Tim, who we almost lost a week ago. I just want you to know I love you so much and I cannot wait to be with you tomorrow and I know you can’t see me, but I know you can hear me right now, and I just want you to know I love you. And finally, to my management, Jeremy Kats, Chris Highland, my vocal coach, Liz Caplan. But most of all, my honey, my fiance who I love so much. I cannot wait to marry you and you have made me the happiest girl in the world. Thank you to the American Theatre Wing. Oh My God!
Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful, Best Leading Actress in a Play:
Thou are the potter, I’m only the clay. When I think of the moment where I stand before, this moment, I cannot help but remember all of the thumbprints that have touched this being during the course of her career. My mother and father, my sister and brother, none of whom are here with me. I’m the sole surviving member of my immediate family and I’ve asked over and over again, why? I now know why. It’s been 30 years since I stood on this stage. I really didn’t think it would happen again in my lifetime and I was pretty comfortable with that. Except that I had this burning desire for just one more. One more great role, I said, I didn’t want to be greedy. I just wanted one more. And it came to me through no effort on my part. Ben Ramsey, Hallie Foote, Michael, Bill Haber and the entire Haber family who have nurtured me for the last 40 years, M.J. who has paid the greatest price for my success. The American Theatre Wing for welcoming me home. Please wrap it up, it says. Well that’s exactly what you did with me. You wrapped me up in your arms after 30 years. Now I can go home with a Tony. God Bless you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. [Watch below.]
Below, musical highlights from the show, beginning with the closing number – which recapped the entire night to Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind.”
Five-Time Tony winner Audra McDonald peforms onstage for the ‘LIVE From Lincoln Center’ performance during the PBS portion of the 2013 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa on January 14, 2013 in Pasadena, California
*So how does one become a Broadway superstar?
While there are countless paths to New York’s Great White Way, beginning actors all cite the same three pathways to the big stage – audition, audition, audition.
“I auditioned for a lot of summer stock, and then I auditioned for ‘The Secret Garden’ on Broadway, and I got cast in the national tour instead,” says Tony winner and former “Private Practice’ star Audra McDonald, who takes center stage on Friday’s broadcast of PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center,” which she also hosts.
It was during the national tour of The Secret Garden when McDonald got her first agent.
“And the agent,” she recalls, “said they are doing a production of Carousel with a color-blind cast at Lincoln Center. ‘We want you to go in for it.’ Then Carousel happened.
That was in September of 1993; Audra was 23-years-old. By her 28th birthday, the actress was a three-time Tony winner for her performances in Carousel, Master Class, and Ragtime. She won her fourth in 2004 for her role in “A Raisin in the Sun,” and in June 2012 earned a fifth Tony for her portrayal of Bess in The Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess.”
On Friday, May 24, she wraps her seven-broadcast run as host of “Live from Lincoln Center” with her own Lincoln Center concert, “Audra McDonald in Concert: Go Back Home.” (The title derives from the song “Go Back Home” in the Kander and Ebb musical “The Scottsboro Boys”).
Backed by a 35-piece orchestra she will take a musical trip through Broadway history with songs from Cole Porter, Gus Kahn, John Kander, Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin, Stephen Sondheim, George Gershwin, Adam Guettel, Gabriel Kahane and Jule Styne.
Below, Audra McDonald says she hopes her run as host “Live at Lincoln Center” helped to stir some passions among a younger, more diverse and social media-driven audience.
Watch a preview of “Audra McDonald in Concert: Go Back Home” below.
*Audra McDonald has been hosting this season’s “Live From Lincoln Center” series on PBS, but she’s set to command center stage next month for the show’s season finale.
The special, titled “Audra McDonald In Concert: Go Back Home,” will see the “Private Practice” star and five-time Tony Award winner performing a gala concert at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Her song list will include numbers from a variety of musical theater composers featured on her upcoming album, “Go Back Home,” her first solo effort in seven years.
Picking the songs for the album and the special, she explains, comes down to whether or not she gets a visceral reaction from the music and lyrics.
“It’s really a gut reaction that I have to the material immediately,” she told us during interviews for the special. “I know pretty quickly, and it’s not passing judgment on songs that I choose not to sing, because it has more to do with whether or not I feel a connection to it.”
“And I can feel a connection to many songs that I won’t necessarily sing – because I don’t think they’re right for me,” she adds. “But if there is something in my gut that immediately responds in a way that I know, ‘That’s a song that I would be able to interpret’; that resonates with me in some way, whether it’s something comic or a ballad or something that’s contemplative or whatever, it has to resonate within my gut. There’s no science to it. I wish I had a scientific mind, but I don’t.”
After leaving Los Angeles-based “Private Practice” in 2011 to be closer to her family in New York, including her 12-year-old daughter Zoe, McDonald returned for January’sseries finale – wrapping a gig that she only took as a way to conquer her fear of the small screen.
…Yes, the five-time Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran chose to fly back and forth between L.A. and her various theater projects in NYC for four years during her run on the Shonda Rhimes series – just to face her fear of television.
She explains below.
“Audra McDonald In Concert: Go Back Home” premieres Friday, May 24 at 9 p.m. on PBS.
Below, Audra says she and the Lincoln Center go way back.