Audra McDonald, 2008
July 3, 1970 |
Audra Ann McDonald (born July 3, 1970) is an American actress and singer. She has appeared on the stage in both musicals and dramas, such as Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, and Porgy and Bess. She maintains an active concert and recording career, performing song cycles and operas as well as performing in concert throughout the U.S. She has won six competitive Tony Awards, more than any other actor, and is the only person to win all four acting categories. She also starred in the ABC television drama Private Practice as Dr. Naomi Bennett.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Credits
- 5 Awards and nominations
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early life and education
McDonald was born in Berlin, Germany, the daughter of American parents, Anna Kathryn, a university administrator, and Stanley McDonald, Jr., a high school principal. At the time of her birth, her father was stationed with the U.S. Army. McDonald was raised in Fresno, California, the elder of two daughters. She began to study acting at a young age to counteract her diagnosis as "hyperactive". McDonald graduated from the Roosevelt School of the Arts program within Theodore Roosevelt High School in Fresno. She got her start in acting with Dan Pessano and Good Company Players, beginning in their Junior Company. "I knew I wanted to be involved in theater when I had my first chance to perform with the Good Company Players Junior Company." "The people who have had the most impact on my life: Good Company director Dan Pessano and my mother." She studied classical voice as an undergraduate under Ellen Faull at the Juilliard School, graduating in 1993.
McDonald was a three-time Tony Award winner by age 28 for her performances in Carousel, Master Class, and Ragtime, placing her alongside Shirley Booth, Gwen Verdon and Zero Mostel by accomplishing this feat within five years. She was nominated for another Tony Award for her performance in Marie Christine before she won her fourth in 2004 for her role in A Raisin in the Sun, placing her in the company of then four-time winning actress Angela Lansbury. She reprised her Raisin role for a 2008 television adaptation, earning her a second Emmy Award nomination. On June 10, 2012, McDonald scored her fifth Tony Award win for her portrayal of Bess in Broadway's The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, thus tying Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris. Her 2014 performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill earned McDonald her sixth Tony award and made her the first person to win all four acting categories.
McDonald appeared as Lizzie in the Roundabout Theatre Company's 2007 revival of 110 in the Shade, directed by Lonny Price at Studio 54, for which she shared the Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Musical with Donna Murphy. On April 29, 2007, while she was in previews for the show, her father was killed when an experimental aircraft he was flying crashed north of Sacramento, California.
McDonald appeared in a revised version of Porgy and Bess, at the American Repertory Theatre (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) from August through September 2011, and recreated the role on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, which opened on January 12, 2012 and closed on September 23, 2012. For this role, McDonald won her fifth Tony Award and her first in a Leading Actress category. This American Repertory Theater production was "re-imagined by Suzan-Lori Parks and Diedre Murray as a musical for contemporary audiences."
McDonald is playing Billie Holiday on Broadway in the play Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill in a limited engagement scheduled to end on August 10, 2014. After previews that began on March 25, 2014, the play opened at the Circle in the Square Theatre on April 13, 2014. Of the play, McDonald said in an interview:
It’s about a woman trying to get through a concert performance, which I know something about, and she’s doing it at a time when her liver was pickled and she was still doing heroin regularly...I might have been a little judgmental about Billie Holiday early on in my life, but what I’ve come to admire most about her – and what is fascinating in this show – is that there is never any self-pity. She’s almost laughing at how horrible her life has been. I don’t think she sees herself as a victim. And she feels an incredible connection to her music – she can’t sing a song if she doesn’t have some emotional connection to it, which I really understand.
McDonald won the Tony Award, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play for this role, making her the first person to ever earn six Tony Award wins for acting (not counting honorary awards) and the first person to win a Tony Award in all four acting categories.  In her acceptance speech, "she thanked her parents for encouraging her to pursue her interests as a child." She also thanked the "strong and brave and courageous" African-American women who came before her, saying in part, "I am standing on Lena Horne's shoulders. I am standing on Maya Angelou's shoulders. I am standing on Diahann Carroll and Ruby Dee, and most of all, Billie Holiday. You deserved so much more than you were given when you were on this planet. This is for you Billie." 
In February 2014, it was reported that McDonald might star as Jessie alongside Oprah Winfrey in a Broadway revival of 'night, Mother. George C. Wolfe is linked to direct and the production would play an unnamed theater during the 2015/16 season.
Recordings and concerts
McDonald has maintained ties to her classical training and repertoire. She frequently performs in concert throughout the U.S. and has performed with musical organizations such as the New York Philharmonic and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Carnegie Hall commissioned the song cycle The Seven Deadly Sins: A Song Cycle for McDonald, and she performed it at Carnegie's Zankel Hall on June 2, 2004. She sang two solo one-act operas at the Houston Grand Opera in March 2006: Francis Poulenc's La voix humaine and the world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's Send (who are you? I love you). On February 10, 2007, McDonald starred with Patti LuPone in the Los Angeles Opera production of Kurt Weill's opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny directed by John Doyle. The recording of the Los Angeles Opera production of Kurt Weill's opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, featuring McDonald and Patti LuPone, won two Grammy Awards, for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album in February 2009.
McDonald has recorded five solo albums for Nonesuch Records. Her first, the 1998 Way Back to Paradise, featured songs written by a new generation of musical theatre composers who had achieved varying degrees of prominence in the 1990s, particularly LaChiusa, Adam Guettel and Jason Robert Brown.
Her next album, How Glory Goes (2000), combined both old and new works, and included composers Harold Arlen, Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Kern. Her third album, Happy Songs (2002), was big band music from the 1920s through the '40s. Her fourth album, Build a Bridge (2006), features songs from jazz and pop.
In May 2013, Audra McDonald released her first solo album in seven years, Go Back Home, with a title track from the Kander & Ebb musical The Scottsboro Boys. To coincide with the album's release, McDonald performed a concert at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City that aired on the PBS series Live from Lincoln Center titled Audra McDonald In Concert: Go Back Home.
In May 2000, Audra McDonald appeared as "The Beggar Woman" in Lonny Price's concert version of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, performed at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, New York with the New York Philharmonic with George Hearn and Patti LuPone. She reprised the role in some performances of the March 2014 Lincoln Center concert production, again directed by Price, this time opposite Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson.
Television and film
McDonald has also made many television appearances, both musical and dramatic. In 2001, she received her first Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie for the HBO film Wit, starring Emma Thompson and directed by Mike Nichols. She also has appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street (1999), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2000), Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (1999), the short-lived Mister Sterling (2003), The Bedford Diaries (2006), and Kidnapped (2006–2007), and in the 1999 television remake of Annie as Daddy Warbucks' secretary & soon-to-be wife, Miss Farrell. She sang with the New York Philharmonic in the annual New Year's Eve gala concert on December 31, 2006, featuring music from the movies; it was televised on Live from Lincoln Center by PBS. In 2013, she appeared in the HBO documentary Six by Sondheim.
McDonald appeared as Naomi Bennett in Private Practice, a spinoff of Grey's Anatomy. She replaced Merrin Dungey, who played the role in the series pilot. McDonald left Private Practice at the end of season four.
In films, McDonald has appeared in Best Thief in the World (2004), It Runs in the Family (2003), Cradle Will Rock (1999), The Object of My Affection (1998), and Seven Servants by Daryush Shokof which was her film acting debut in (1996).
McDonald married bassist Peter Donovan in September 2000. They have one daughter, Zoe, named after McDonald's close friend Zoe Caldwell. McDonald and Donovan divorced in 2009. She married Will Swenson on October 6, 2012.
McDonald attended Joan Rivers' funeral in New York on September 7, 2014, where she sang "Smile".
- Way Back to Paradise (Nonesuch, 1998)
- How Glory Goes (2000)
- Happy Songs (2005)
- Build a Bridge (2006)
- Go Back Home (2013)
- Dawn Upshaw Sings Rodgers & Hart (duet on "Why Can't I?") (1996)
- Leonard Bernstein's New York ("A Little Bit in Love" and "Tonight" duet with Mandy Patinkin) (1996)
- George and Ira Gershwin: Standards and Gems ("How Long Has This Been Going On?") (1998)
- George Gershwin: The 100th Birthday Celebration (Porgy and Bess selections) (1998)
- Cradle Will Rock ("Joe Worker") (1999)
- Myths and Hymns ("Pegasus") (1999)
- My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies ("The Webber Love Trio") (1999)
- Broadway In Love ("You Were Meant For Me" from The Object of My Affection) (2000)
- Broadway Cares: Home for the Holidays ("White Christmas") (2001)
- Bright Eyed Joy: The Songs Of Ricky Ian Gordon ("Daybreak in Alabama", etc.) (2001)
- ZEITGEIST ("Think Twice") (2005)
- The Wonder of Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (2004)
- Barbara Cook at the Met ("When Did I Fall In Love?" and "Blue Skies") (2006)
- Jule Styne in Hollywood ("10,432 Sheep") (2006)
- Guest Artist, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's The Wonder of Christmas ("Sweet Little Jesus Boy", "Children Go Where I Send Thee") (2006)
- New York Pops American River Suite (featured on "Prologue/Through The Mist/Half Moon") [Recording offered as a FREE download for a limited time on the official New York Pops website.]
- Carousel (1994 Broadway Revival Cast Recording) (1994)
- Ragtime (Original Cast Recording) (1998)
- I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky by John Adams (Studio Cast Recording) (1998)
- Wonderful Town (Studio Recording) (1999)
- Marie Christine (Original Cast Recording) (1999)
- Annie (1999)
- Sweeney Todd Live at the New York Philharmonic (2000)
- Dreamgirls in Concert (2001 Concert Cast Recording) (released February 2002)
- 110 in the Shade (2007 Broadway Revival Cast Recording) (2007)
- Rodgers & Hammerstein's Allegro (First Complete Recording) (2009)
- The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (New Broadway Cast Recording) (2012)
- Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (2014)
- Audra McDonald – Live at the Donmar London, VHS (1999)
- My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies("The Webber Love Trio"),DVD & CD (1999)
- Bernstein – Wonderful Town with Kim Criswell, Thomas Hampson, Wayne Marshall, Simon Rattle, and Berlin Philharmonic, DVD (2005)
- The Wonder of Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, DVD (2005)
- Weill – Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, DVD (2007)
- Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, Blu-ray DVD (2010)
- Alice Walker, By The Light of My Father's Smile (1998)
- Connie Briscoe, A Long Way From Home (1999)
- Rita Dove, Second-Hand Man (2003)
|1998||The Object of My Affection||Wedding Singer|
|1999||Cradle Will Rock||Blitzstein – 'Joe Worker' Singer|
|2003||It Runs in the Family||Sarah Langley|
|2004||The Best Thief in the World||Ruth|
|2015||Ricki and the Flash|
|1999||Annie||Miss Grace Farrell||TV movie|
|Homicide: Life on the Street||Teresa Giardello||Episode: "Forgive Us Our Trespasses"|
|Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years||Bessie in her 20s||TV movie|
|2000||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Audrey Jackson||Multiple guest arc
|The Last Debate||Barbara Manning||TV movie|
|2001||Wit||Susie Monahan||Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie|
|2003||Mister Sterling||Jackie Brock||9 episodes|
|Partners and Crime||Unknown||TV movie|
|Tea Time with Roy & Sylvia||Sylvia||Short|
|2005||Live from Lincoln Center||Clara||Episode: "Passion"|
|2006||The Bedford Diaries||Professor Carla Bonatelle||8 episodes|
|2006–07||Kidnapped||Jackie Hayes||Multiple guest arc
– "Number One with a Bullet"
– "Front Page"
|2007||Great Performances||Jenny Smith||Episode: "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny"|
|2008||A Raisin in the Sun||Ruth Younger||Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie or Mini-Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|2009||Grey's Anatomy||Dr. Naomi Bennett||Episode: "Before and After"|
|She Got Problems||Herself||Short|
|2007–2013||Private Practice||Dr. Naomi Bennett||77 episodes
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2008–2010)
|2013||The Good Wife||Liz Lawrence||Episode: "Runnin' with the Devil"|
|The Sound of Music Live!||Mother Abbess||Live telecast|
|1992||The Secret Garden||Ayah (replacement)||St. James Theatre
1992 – January 3, 1993
|1994||Carousel||Carrie Pipperidge||Vivian Beaumont Theater
March 24, 1994 – January 15, 1995
|1995||Something Wonderful||Performer||Gershwin Theatre
July 12, 1995
|1995||Master Class||Sharon Graham||John Golden Theatre
November 5, 1995 – June 29, 1997
|1998||Ragtime||Sarah||Ford Center for the Performing Arts
January 18, 1998 – January 16, 2000
|1999||Marie Christine||Marie Christine L'Adrese||Vivian Beaumont Theater
December 2, 1999 – January 9, 2000
|2003||Henry IV||Lady Percy||Vivian Beaumont Theater
November 20, 2003 – January 18, 2004
|2004||A Raisin in the Sun||Ruth Younger||Royale Theatre
April 26, 2004 – July 11, 2004
|2007||110 in the Shade||Lizzie Curry||Studio 54
May 9, 2007 – July 29, 2007
|2009||Twelfth Night||Olivia||Delacorte Theater
June 25, 2009 – July 12, 2009
|2012||Porgy and Bess||Bess||Richard Rodgers Theatre
January 12, 2012 – September 23, 2012
|2014||Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill||Billie Holiday||Circle in the Square Theatre
April 13, 2014 – September 21, 2014
Awards and nominations
- "Tony Awards Facts & Trivia". Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- "Audra – Living Her Dream". The Fresno Bee. January 15, 1989. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
- "Audra McDonald's a tough act to follow in "Evita"". The Fresno Bee. December 5, 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-09.
- Green, Blake. "Never Short of Breath", sfgate.com (originally in the San Francisco Chronicle), July 16, 2000
- "Alumni News: November 2011". Juilliard.edu. Archived from the original on 2012-07-18.
Audra McDonald (BM ’93, voice)
- Gans, Andrew. Chenoweth, Dench, Linney, McDonald, Rashad Nominated for Emmy Awards", playbill.com, July 17, 2008
- Gans, Andrew. " 'Utopia' and 'Spring Awakening' Win Top Honors at Drama Desk Awards", playbill.com, May 21, 2007
- Jones, Kenneth. "Stanley McDonald Jr., Father of Tony-Winner Audra McDonald, Dies in Air Crash", playbill.com, April 30, 2007
- "Porgy and Bess on Playbill Vault". PlaybillVault.com
- Jones, Kenneth and Hetrick, Adam. 2012 "Tony Awards Nominations Announced; 'Once' Earns 11 Nominations". Playbill.com, May 1, 2012
- Gans, Andrew and Hetrick, Adam. "Norm Lewis-Audra McDonald 'Porgy and Bess' Will Play Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre" playbill.com, June 29, 2011
- "Audra McDonald to Return to Broadway as Billie Holiday". Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- "Audra Mcdonald Nets a Record Sixth Win" npr.org, June 9, 2014
- Purcell, Carey. " 'Gent's Guide', 'All The Way', 'Hedwig And the Angry Inch', 'Raisin in the Sun' Win Top Prizes at 68th Annual Tony Awards" playbill.com, June 8, 2014
- "Audra McDonald Wins 6th Tony Award Makes Broadway History" essence.com, June 8, 2014
- Gioia, Michael. "Will Oprah Winfrey Make Broadway Debut Opposite Audra McDonald in 'night, Mother?; Color Purple Revival in the Works", playbill.com, February 6, 2014
- Gans, Andrew. "Audra McDonald to Offer Concerts Throughout U.S.", playbill.com, April 8, 2008
- Gans, Andrew. "Audra McDonald Premieres The Seven Deadly Sins June 2 at Zankel Hall", playbill.com, June 2, 2004
- Gans, Andrew. "Audra McDonald to Debut New LaChiusa Piece at Houston Grand Opera", playbill.com, July 26, 2005
- Simonson, Robert and Gans, Andrew. "Doyle to Direct LuPone and McDonald in 'Mahagonny' ", playbill.com, January 16, 2006
- Gans, Andrew. "In the Heights Cast Recording Wins Grammy; Hudson and LuPone-McDonald "Mahagonny" Also Win", playbill.com, February 8, 2009
- Portantiere, Michael (September 2008). "Over the Borderline". Opera News Online 73 (3). Archived from the original on September 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
- Simonson, Robert. "Audra McDonald Sings Composers of Today and Future at Joe's Pub", playbill.com, May 22, 2002
- Suskin, Steven. "On The Record: A Complete Cabaret With Judi Dench, and Audra McDonald's "Build a Bridge", playbill.com, November 12, 2006
- Hetrick, Adam (April 9, 2013). "Audra McDonald's New Album, "Go Back Home" Sets May Release; PBS Concert Will Follow". Playbill.
- Moon, Josh. "Alabama wins 13th national championship" montgomeryadvertiser.com, January 8, 2010
- Jones, Kenneth. "Emmy Noms Go to 'Wit,' 'South Pacific,' 'Laughter on the 23rd Floor' and More", July 12, 2001
- Audra McDonald at the Internet Movie Database
- Gans, Andrew. "PBS to Broadcast Audra McDonald's New Year's Eve Concert", playbill.com, November 29, 2006
- ""Six By Sondheim" Doc, With Performances by Audra McDonald, Darren Criss, Jeremy Jordan, Debuts on HBO Dec. 9". Retrieved March 21, 2014.
- Buckley, Michael (24 September 2007). "Stage to Screens: Audra McDonald, Kenneth Branagh, Craig Wright, Jill Clayburgh". Playbill. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- "Audra McDonald to Exit Private Practice". TV Guide. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- Gans, Andrew (9 February 2011). "Audra McDonald Departing ABC's Private Practice". Playbill. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti and Christian Borle Join Cast of NBC's Sound of Music Playbill, Retrieved September 16, 2013
- 'Sound of Music Live!' with Carrie Underwood: NBC announces more cast, releases poster Entertainment Weekly, Retrieved September 16, 2013
- "McDonald Sets Record Straight". BroadwayWorld News Desk. June 3, 2009.
- Jones, Kenneth. "Audra McDonald and Will Swenson Get Married" playbill.com, October 7, 2012
- Three Westchester Natives Up For Tony Awards Retrieved 2014-10-02.
- McDonald record listing nonesuch.com, retrieved January 8, 2010
- Way Back to Paradise listing barnesandnoble.com, retrieved January 8, 2010
- Simonson, Robert. "Audra McDonald's 'How Glory Goes' Released in Stores Feb. 22" playbill.com, February 10, 2000
- McDonald listing masterworksbroadway.com, retrieved January 8, 2010
- "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square: Featuring Audra McDonald and Peter Graves" mormontabernaclechoir.org, retrieved January 8, 2010
- Jule Styne in Hollywood listing footlight.com, retrieved January 8, 2010
- The Wonder of Christmas mormontabernaclechoir.org, retrieved January 8, 2010
- "I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky", listing nonesuch.com, accessed August 15, 2009
- Suskin, Steven. "On the Record: Dazzling Dreamgirls and 1943 Show Tunes", playbill.com, March 10, 2002
- Hetrick, Adam and Gans, Andrew. "Complete Allegro Recording, with McDonald, Gunn and Wilson, to Arrive In Stores Feb. 3", playbill.com, December 8, 2008
- Porgy and Bess, playbill.com, 2012
- Audra McDonald Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill Original Broadway Cast Recording Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- Getting There from Here: Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story isbndb.com, accessed August 15, 2009
- McDonald Broadway credits ibdb.com, retrieved January 8, 2010
- Awards and nominations, theatre playbill.com, retrieved January 8, 2010
- Awards and nominations, TV imdb.com, retrieved January 8, 2010
- 98.7 KISS-FM (7 April 2005). "Emmis communications/98.7 KISS-FM celebrated Women's History Month by introducing its first annual salute to Phenomenal Women". Press Release (Emmis Communications).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Audra McDonald.|
- Audra McDonald at IMG Artists
- Audra McDonald at the Internet Broadway Database
- Audra McDonald at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Audra McDonald at the Internet Movie Database
- Audra McDonald at PlaybillVault
- Audra McDonald at Nonesuch Records
- Audra McDonald – Downstage Center interview at American Theatre Wing.org
- Audra McDonald's February 5, 2007 interview on the Tavis Smiley Show (TV Interview)