Earning a record-tying five Tony Awards® for her performances in "Carousel," "Master Class," "Ragtime," "A Raisin in the Sun," and "Porgy and Bess," Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry as both singer and actress. Blessed with a luminous soprano and an incomparable gift for dramatic truth-telling, she is equally at home on Broadway and opera stages as in roles for film and television. A two-time Grammy® Award-winner, she maintains a major career as a concert and recording artist, regularly appearing on the great stages of the world and with leading international orchestras.
Audra McDonald’s most recent solo recording is "Go Back Home," released in May 2013 by Nonesuch Records. Songs from the album were featured in a sold-out concert at Avery Fisher Hall which was subsequently televised on “Live From Lincoln Center,” of which Ms. McDonald also serves as series host on PBS. In the fall of 2013, she embarks on a twenty-two city North American concert tour with appearances in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Provo, Ogden, and Houston, among others.
On the concert stage, Ms. McDonald has premiered music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams and sung with virtually every major American orchestra – including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony – under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Michael Tilson Thomas.
A familiar face on television, Ms. McDonald co-starred with Victor Garber in the lauded 1999 Disney/ABC television remake of "Annie" and received Emmy nominations for her appearance in the HBO film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Wit," directed by Mike Nichols, and for reprising her Tony Award-winning role from "A Raisin in the Sun" in a made-for-television movie adaptation directed by Kenny Leon. From 2007 to 2011, she played Dr. Naomi Bennett on the hit ABC medical drama, "Private Practice." On December 5th, 2013, Audra McDonald will be seen as the Mother Abbess in a live television broadcast of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "The Sound of Music" on NBC, opposite the Fräulein Maria of Carrie Underwood.
Born into a musical family, Audra McDonald grew up in Fresno, California and received her classical vocal training at the Juilliard School.
Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry as both singer and actress. With a record-tying five Tony Awards®, two Grammy Awards®, and a long list of other accolades to her name, she is among today’s most highly regarded performers. Blessed with a luminous soprano and an incomparable gift for dramatic truth-telling, she is equally at home on Broadway and opera stages as in roles on film and television. In addition to her theatrical work, she maintains a major career as a concert and recording artist, regularly appearing on the great stages of the world.
Born into a musical family, McDonald grew up in Fresno, California and received her classical vocal training at the Juilliard School. A year after graduating, she won her first Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel at Lincoln Center Theater, directed by Nicholas Hytner. She received two additional Tony Awards in the featured actress category over the next four years for her performances in the Broadway premieres of Terrence McNally’s Master Class (1996) and Ahrens & Flaherty’s Ragtime (1998), earning her an unprecedented three Tony Awards before the age of 30. In 2004 she won her fourth Tony, starring alongside Sean “Diddy” Combs in A Raisin in the Sun, and in 2012 she won her fifth—and her first in the leading actress category—for her role in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, placing her in the illustrious company of Broadway legends Julie Harris and Angela Lansbury as the only people in Tony history to win five performance awards. McDonald’s other theater credits include The Secret Garden (1993), Marie Christine (1999; Tony nomination), Henry IV (2004), 110 in the Shade (2007; Tony nomination), and her Public Theater “Shakespeare in the Park” debut in Twelfth Night alongside Anne Hathaway (2009).
After Summer 2013 appearances at the Festival del Sole, the Caramoor Festival, and with John Williams and the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, Audra McDonald opens the 2013/2014 season of the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas. She then embarks upon a twenty-two-city concert tour, including appearances in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Toronto, Las Vegas, Arizona, Utah, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, and New Jersey.
McDonald made her opera debut in 2006 at Houston Grand Opera, where she starred in a double-bill of Poulenc’s monodrama La voix humaine and the world premiere of its companion piece, Send, written by one of McDonald’s frequent collaborators, Michael John LaChiusa. She made her Los Angeles Opera debut in 2007 starring alongside Patti LuPone in John Doyle’s production of Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The resulting recording won McDonald two Grammy Awards: for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album.
On the concert stage, McDonald has premiered music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams and sung with virtually every major American orchestra – including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony – and under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Leonard Slatkin. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas in a season-opening concert that was broadcast live on PBS. Internationally, she returns to the BBC Proms in London (where she was only the second American in more than 100 years invited to appear as a guest soloist at the Last Night of the Proms) and at the Théatre du Chatelet in Paris, as well as to the London Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic.
It was the Peabody Award-winning CBS program Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years that first introduced McDonald to television audiences as a dramatic actress. She went on to co-star with Kathy Bates and Victor Garber in the lauded 1999 Disney/ABC television remake of Annie, and in 2000 she had a recurring role on NBC’s hit series Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. After receiving her first Emmy nomination for her performance in the HBO film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Emma Thompson, McDonald returned to network television in 2003 in the political drama Mister Sterling, produced by Emmy Award-winner Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. (The West Wing) and starring Josh Brolin. In early 2006 she joined the cast of the WB’s The Bedford Diaries, and over the next season she had a recurring role on NBC’s television series Kidnapped. In 2008 she reprised her Tony-winning role in A Raisin in the Sun in a made-for-television movie adaption, earning her a second Emmy Award nomination. From 2007 to 2011, she played Dr. Naomi Bennett on the hit ABC medical drama, Private Practice.
A familiar face on PBS, McDonald is the series host of Live from Lincoln Center, which televised her recent solo concert for Lincoln Center’s Spring Gala. She has headlined telecasts including an American Songbook season-opening concert, a presentation of Sondheim’s Passion, a tribute concert to Rodgers and Hammerstein titled Something Wonderful, and three galas with the New York Philharmonic: a New Year Eve’s performance in 2006, a concert celebrating Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday, and Carnegie Hall’s 120th Anniversary Concert. She was also featured in the PBS television special “A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House,” singing at the request of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. McDonald has appeared three times on the Kennedy Center Honors, been profiled by 60 Minutes and the Today Show, been a guest on the Megan Mullally Show, the Rosie O’Donnell Show, Tavis Smiley, The Wendy Williams, and The Colbert Report, and has guest co-hosted on The View with Barbara Walters.
McDonald’s film career began with her role in Seven Servants in 1996, and her list of credits has since grown to include The Object of My Affection (1998), Cradle Will Rock (1999), It Runs in the Family (2003), The Best Thief in the World (2004), and She Got Problems (2009), a mockumentary movie musical written, starring, and directed by her sister, Alison McDonald. Most recently, Audra McDonald appeared in the 2012 release Rampart, starring Woody Harrelson and now available on DVD.
As an exclusive Nonesuch recording artist, McDonald has released five solo albums on the label, interpreting songs from the classic (Gershwin, Arlen, and Bernstein) to the contemporary (Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel, and Ricky Ian Gordon). The New York Times dubbed her first Nonesuch album, 1998’s Way Back to Paradise, as Adult Record of the Year. Following the best-selling How Glory Goes in 2000 and Happy Songs in 2002, she released the 2006 album Build a Bridge, which saw the singer stretch her repertoire to include songs by the likes of Randy Newman, Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach, Rufus Wainwright, and Nellie McKay. Her newest album, Go Back Home, released in May 2013, is her most personal recording to date, featuring songs by Sondheim, Guettel, Kander & Ebb, and introducing a new generation of songwriters including Adam Gwon and Goldrich & Heisler. McDonald’s ensemble recordings include the acclaimed EMI version of Bernstein’s Wonderful Town conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, the New York Philharmonic release of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, and Dreamgirls in concert, as well as the first recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro and Broadway cast albums of Carousel, Ragtime, Marie Christine, 110 in the Shade, and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. She is also featured on a number of audiovisual recordings available on DVD and Blu-ray, including Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, Weill – Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Bernstein – Wonderful Town, Audra McDonald – Live at the Donmar, London, and My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies.
McDonald’s other accolades include four Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, four NAACP Image Awards nominations, an Ovation Award, a Theatre World Award, and the Drama League’s 2000 Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and 2012 Distinguished Performance Award. In addition to her five Tony Awards, she received nominations for her performances in Marie Christine and 110 in the Shade.
"Absolutely thrilling. That describes Audra McDonald’s Avery Fisher Hall performance at Lincoln Center’s spring gala on Thursday evening. The very sound of the word 'thrilling,' with its suggestion of an embedded trill, evokes qualities inherent in Ms. McDonald’s soprano, which seemed to unfurl in ever-richer textures as she imbued songs with a sense of bursting possibility...One of Ms. McDonald’s greatest gifts is to find the story inside the song and deliver it with immediacy and clarity, in a voice that finds a flexible, intuitive balance between storytelling and singing — a defining voice of our time. "Stephen Holden, The New York Times
"For devastating theatrical impact, it’s hard to imagine any hurricane matching the tempest that is the extraordinary Audra McDonald’s Bess at the moment she is reunited with her former lover, Crown... Bess—who has already been drawn by Ms. McDonald as a compellingly conflicted soul — acquires the full dimensions of a tragic heroine. Ms. McDonald, for the record, never recedes from those heights. Her Bess, which I first saw in this production’s original staging in Cambridge in August, remains a major work of musical portraiture, one that realizes the ambition of Ms. Paulus and company to bring fresh psychological complexity and visceral immediacy to a classic. Ms. McDonald’s Bess is — in a word — great... It seems safe to predict that Ms. McDonald, a four-time Tony winner, will be in contention for all the prizes on offer this season. She should be. You don’t need the scar that brands her cheek to tell this Bess is damaged goods (and all too aware of that status) and a woman who has always lived in defiance of the pain she is in. That’s evident in her very posture, a mix of coiled defensiveness and thrusting exhibitionism, from the moment she sets foot onstage. And when she sings — ah, it’s a God-touched voice that turns suffering and ugliness into beauty. No wonder the people of Catfish Row don’t think she belongs among them. This Bess has the breath of divinity in a world that feels entirely too mundane to keep her. "Ben Brantley, The New York Times
"There is a reason you should run out and get the recording of this Tony-nominated revival: It preserves Audra McDonald's wrenching performance… Best to treasure this ‘Porgy and Bess’ for McDonald's heartbreaking portrayal of a woman who loves her Porgy as well as she can. The beauty and tragedy of this are captured in this recording of a landmark performance by a Broadway legend who, thankfully, is just entering her prime."Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times
"McDonald is one of the most consummate performers there is, effortlessly intimate, casually masterly, seemingly more comfortable on stage than most people are anywhere… McDonald can belt with the best of them (Harburg and Arlen’s ‘Ain’t It de Truth’ rang with attitude), but the core of her sound (and the reserve of her vocal power) is a more classical technique, the traditional, legit music theater style, sustained notes that blossom into complexity more than accelerate toward impact… McDonald, more and more, seems most at home in the suspended equilibrium so well cultivated by Broadway in its golden age, lightly dancing along the line separating a joyous heart from a broken one."Matthew Guerrieri, The Boston Globe
"In Audra McDonald, this production boasts a Bess for the ages. With a scar across her left cheek and a wary, wounded demeanor to match, McDonald’s Bess emerges very slowly from her shell, drawn out into the world by the unconditional love of Porgy (Norm Lewis), a disabled beggar. Their duet on ‘Bess, You Is My Woman Now’ near the end of act one is a thing of beauty to watch and to hear: Lewis eases into it gently and tentatively, as if not entirely sure Bess will reciprocate, while the subtle play of expressions on McDonald’s face suggests that, mid-song, the realization has dawned on Bess that she does indeed love Porgy. Later, when Bess pleads with Porgy not to let her former lover, Crown, take her away again in ‘I Loves You, Porgy,’ McDonald brings a shattering, life-or-death urgency to the scene."Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe
"She never sings these particular lyrics, as it happens. But Audra McDonald has every right to say, ‘Bess, you is my woman now.’ That assertion is implicit in every aspect of her performance in ‘The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess’… Ms. McDonald is Bess (or to use the hyper-speak of movie ads, ‘Audra McDonald IS Bess,’) and she can claim rights to full possession of her role, the kind of ownership that transforms a classic character forever. … Ms. McDonald’s performance is as complete and complex a work of musical portraiture as any I’ve seen in years, fulfilling the best intentions of Ms. Paulus and Ms. Parks. A four-time Tony winner for her work in both musicals and plays, Ms. McDonald combines the skills of a great actress and a great singer to stride right over any perceived gaps between the genres of musical and opera. Though her emotion-packed soprano has rarely been more penetrating or (dare I add?) operatic, Ms. McDonald makes you forget whether she’s speaking or singing the words of the loose-living, terminally conflicted Bess, who improbably but persuasively falls in love with the crippled beggar Porgy…You just know that you feel what she’s feeling at any given moment, and that it is often unbearably painful. … Her scarred, shapely Bess is a heartbreaking mélange of audacity and trepidation. She is like a feral cat who has known years of abuse and is now frightened but tempted by the prospect of a real home. She brings out the best in her leading men… And she made me understand ‘Porgy and Bess’ in a way I hadn’t before. So many of its lyrics have to do with love and home and life itself as provisional and fleeting. And the uncertainty on Ms. McDonald’s face and the fear that pulses in her voice register the toll of such profound impermanence. This ‘Porgy and Bess,’ which is scheduled to open on Broadway this winter, could be a genuine astonishment if everyone were on Ms. McDonald’s level."Ben Brantley, The New York Times
"McDonald can do most anything, from the tongue-twisting patter of Frank Loesser’s ‘Can’t Stop Talking’ (a Betty Hutton specialty), to a turn at the piano, accompanying herself on Adam Guettel’s ‘Migratory V’…As McDonald moved into such deeper emotional territory — a healthy dose of Stephen Sondheim, including a rich, powerful rendition of ‘The Glamorous Life’ — she completed an effortless turn from dexterity to strength, a turn more impressive for being imperceptibly gradual. Like Sondheim, McDonald does amazing things by often seeming to do very little at all."Boston Globe
"Resplendent in a floral-design silk dress, Audra McDonald sustained her reputation Sunday night as a leading Broadway actress, American songbook vocalist and star performer with major orchestras and opera companies. Her 90-minute, intermission-free, 18-song set at a soldout Ozawa Hall (with one of the largest lawn crowds in recent memory) represented a manysplendored sampling of her diverse repertoire enhanced by her ability to forge an immediate, intimate rapport with the audience."The Berkshire Eagle
"On Sunday evening, four-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald came out onto the stage of Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood and launched right into her first song… It was the perfect way to start the concert, giving the audience exactly what they had come to hear: her voice. Her voice is gorgeous. It is lush, expressive, rich, full of color and texture, and beautiful in tone. Am I overstating it? Not really. Her singing voice is simply wonderful, and she makes it look so easy. When McDonald wasn’t singing, she charmed any audience members who weren’t already won over with her easy manner and humorous anecdotes"Berkshire Living
"McDonald, that lustrous life force with the plush velvet voice that can simultaneously melt hearts and generate thrills… But it was McDonald’s take on ‘The Glamorous Life,’ the song of a young girl ruefully explaining her actress mother’s absences, that was the revelation. McDonald (resplendent in a white, Grecian-style gown) is a working mother herself, and she brilliantly twined the ache of both mother and child to incendiary effect. She also soared with ‘Anyone Can Whistle,’ from the show of the same name (remarkable just for her breathtaking emphasis on the word ‘free’), and in ‘Happiness,’ the duet from ‘Passion’ for which she paired ideally with [Michael] Cerveris."Chicago Sun-Times
"Audra McDonald is our Judy, our Barbra, as in Garland and Streisand. Yeah, yeah, it’s a heresy to say it, to strike a comparison between anyone from this era and those Hall of Fame divas. But how else to explain the electric commotion accompanying McDonald's mere stepping out onto the stage Monday night at Davies Symphony Hall? She’s the diva next door: tall, a tiny bit gawky, totally gorgeous—and that voice. Full and mellow, elegant and sexy, lush, plush, brassy, growling, howling across her gigantic range, or expressing starry-eyed enchantment. She pounces on a song like a cat, then lives inside it."San Jose Mercury News
"The roar from the crowd at a packed Davies Symphony Hall Monday night was unnerving. It was loud and deep and it went on and on. The reception for Audra McDonald, summery in a pink and orange shift, brought to mind some of the most enthusiastic initial applauses I remember in the house: Barbara Cook, Gustavo Dudamel, Montserrat Caballe... But there was something different. On other nights, the applause subsided as the performance began. On Monday, after McDonald motioned for silence, she started singing, and after the first line — ‘Look at me ...’ — the roar returned. Then she sang: ‘I am GORGEOUS!’ and eardrums were pierced by the audience."San Francisco Classical Voice
"The turbulent feelings erupting so suddenly in Olivia’s heart are rendered with a lovely glow in Ms. McDonald’s affecting performance. She is among the most accomplished musical theater performers of her generation (and gets to sing a little here, fans will be happy to know), but her musicianship doesn’t stop at the level of the verse. In the arcing emotional phrases of the role — Olivia’s snapping to life under the charm of Cesario’s testy challenge, or her instant wilting at ‘his’ rejection — Ms. McDonald limns the surging music of love’s unfolding with touching truth."The New York Times
The Sound of Music Sony Masterworks (2013)
Go Back Home Nonesuch Records (2013)
The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess PS Classics (2012)
Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project Entertainment One (2012)
Allegro Masterworks Broadway (2009)
Twelfth Night RCA Records (2009)
110 in the Shade PS Classics (2007)
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny EuroArts (2007)
Build a Bridge Nonesuch Records (2006)
Happy Songs Nonesuch Records (2002)
Dreamgirls in Concert Nonesuch Records (2002)
Bright-Eyed Joy: The Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon Nonesuch Records (2001)
Sweeney Todd, Live in Concert New York Philharmonic Special Edition (2000)
Marie Christine RCA Victor (2000)
How Glory Goes Nonesuch Records (2000)
Wonderful Town EMI Classics (1999)
Annie (original telefilm soundtrack) Sony Classical (1999)
Cradle Will Rock RCA Victor (1999)
Myths and Hymns Nonesuch Records (1999)
Way Back to Paradise Nonesuch Records (1998)
I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky Nonesuch Records (1998)
Ragtime RCA Victor (1998)
Leonard Bernstein's New York Nonesuch Records (1996)
Carousel Broadway Angel (1994)