Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry as both a singer and an actress. A record-breaking six-time Tony Award-winner ("Carousel," "Master Class," "Ragtime," "A Raisin in the Sun," "The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess," "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill") and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015, she has also appeared on Broadway in "The Secret Garden," "Marie Christine" (Tony nomination), "Henry IV," and "110 in the Shade" (Tony nomination). She returns to the stage in the 2015-16 season as Lottie Gee in "Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed." The Juilliard-trained soprano's opera credits include "La voix humaine" and "Send" at Houston Grand Opera, and "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny" at Los Angeles Opera. On television, she was seen by millions as the Mother Abbess in NBC’s "The Sound of Music Live!" and played Dr. Naomi Bennett on ABC’s "Private Practice." She has received Emmy nominations for "Wit," "A Raisin in the Sun," and her role as official host of PBS’s "Live From Lincoln Center." Other TV credits include "The Good Wife," "Homicide: Life on the Street," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years," "The Bedford Diaries," "Kidnapped," and the 1999 remake of "Annie." On film, she has appeared in "Seven Servants," "The Object of My Affection," "Cradle Will Rock," "It Runs in the Family," "The Best Thief in the World," "She Got Problems," "Rampart," and most recently "Ricki and the Flash." A two-time Grammy Award-winner and exclusive recording artist for Nonesuch Records, she released her fifth solo album for the label, "Go Back Home," in 2013. McDonald also maintains a major career as a concert artist, regularly appearing on the great stages of the world and with leading international orchestras. An ardent proponent of marriage equality and an advocate for at-risk and underprivileged youth, she sits on the boards of Broadway Impact and Covenant House. Of her many roles, her favorites are the ones performed offstage: wife to her husband, actor Will Swenson, and mother to her daughter, Zoe Madeline.
Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry, as both a singer and an actress. With a record six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, 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 she is 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. 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 his musical 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. In 2014 she made Broadway history and became the Tony Awards’ most decorated performer when she won her sixth award for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. In addition to setting the record for most competitive wins by an actor, she also became the first person to receive awards in all four acting categories. McDonald’s other theater credits include The Secret Garden (1993), Marie Christine (1999), Henry IV (2004), 110 in the Shade (2007), and her Public Theater Shakespeare in the Park debut in Twelfth Night alongside Anne Hathaway and Raúl Esparza (2009). She returns to Broadway in the 2015-16 season as Lottie Gee in Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.
McDonald made her opera debut in 2006 at Houston Grand Opera, where she starred in a double bill: 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 has sung at 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 Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, as well as 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 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 & 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. In 2013, her critically acclaimed performance as the Mother Abbess in NBC’s live telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music opposite Carrie Underwood as Maria was watched by an estimated 18.5 million people across America. McDonald has performed on numerous Tony Awards telecasts; in 2013, she closed the show by performing a rap with Neil Patrick Harris.
A familiar face on PBS, McDonald has headlined telecasts including an American Songbook season-opening concert, a presentation of Sondheim’s Passion, a Rodgers and Hammerstein tribute concert titled Something Wonderful, and five galas with the New York Philharmonic: a New Year’s Eve performance in 2006, a concert celebrating Sondheim’s 80th birthday, Carnegie Hall’s 120th anniversary concert, One Singular Sensation! Celebrating Marvin Hamlisch, and, most recently, Sweeney Todd. 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, Today, PBS NewsHour, and CBS Sunday Morning; been a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the Colbert Report, Charlie Rose, CBS This Morning, NewsNation with Tamron Hall, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, Iron Chef America, the Megan Mullally Show, the Rosie O’Donnell Show, the Tavis Smiley Show, and the Wendy Williams Show; and has guest co-hosted on The View with Barbara Walters. In 2012, McDonald was named the new official host of the PBS series Live From Lincoln Center; she received her first Emmy Award and fourth nomination for hosting a Creative Arts Special Program.
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), She Got Problems (2009)—a mockumentary movie musical written, starring, and directed by her sister, Alison McDonald—and Rampart (2012). Upcoming, she appears opposite Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline in Ricki and the Flash, written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jonathan Demme, and plays the Garderobe in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.
As an exclusive Nonesuch recording artist, McDonald released her most recent album, Go Back Home, in 2013, marking her first solo disc in seven years. She has released four previous 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 bestselling 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 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 five Drama Desk Awards, five Outer Critics Circle Awards, four NAACP Image Awards nominations, an Ovation Award, a Theatre World Award, the Drama League’s 2000 Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and 2012 Distinguished Performance Award, and the 2015 Rockefeller Award for Creativity. Also in 2015, she was named to the Time 100—Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world—and in 2013 she was honored as Musical America’s “Musician of the Year,” joining the esteemed company of previous winners such as Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, Beverly Sills, and Yo-Yo Ma. Besides her six Tony wins, she has received nominations for her performances in Marie Christine and 110 in the Shade.
In addition to her professional obligations, McDonald is an ardent proponent of marriage equality. She sits on the advisory board of the advocacy organization Broadway Impact and has been featured in campaigns for Freedom to Marry, NOH8, and PFLAG NYC. In 2012, she and her now husband, actor Will Swenson, received PFLAG National’s Straight for Equality Award. A dog lover, she has two canine companions, Butler and Georgia, adopted from Eleventh Hour Rescue, a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that saves dogs from death row. In 2014, she joined the Covenant House International Board of Directors, which oversees programs for homeless youth in 27 cities in six countries across the United States, Canada, and Latin America.
Of all her many roles, her favorites are the ones performed offstage: wife to her husband and mother to her daughter, Zoe Madeline.
"Audra McDonald’s strengths as a musician have always been best sensed in transitions, the way the singer shifts among registers and styles with uncanny fluidity. At every turn in her Celebrity Series recital at Symphony Hall on Sunday, the six-time Tony Award-winner already was where the music needed her to be, vocally and interpretively, without perceptible shift or effort. McDonald sang… with lavish sound — her voice seems to grow ever grander, especially her low and middle ranges — but also a quicksilver mix of head-voice point and pop-anthem drive, diction evoking casual clarity while maintaining consistent resonance and intonation."Matthew Guerrieri, The Boston Globe
"The Broadway theater, we keep hearing, doesn’t produce stars anymore ... . Surely [Audra] McDonald is the exception. She’s not just talented. She’s a star. Talent and stardom aren’t the same thing. A star has a special kind of charisma that lights up a room, even a big one like Orchestra Hall, which quickly began to feel like an intimate cabaret Friday night during McDonald’s all-too-brief time onstage."Michael Anthony, Star Tribune
"The most exquisite singing being done on a New York City stage right now is Audra McDonald delivering ‘God Bless the Child’ at Circle in the Square. It's stunning, it's heartbreaking. If there's anything better even available at the moment, it's McDonald again, this time singing ‘Strange Fruit.’ The anguish and fury in it is heart stopping. She's offering the superb vocalizing as Billie Holiday in Lanie Robertson's ‘Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill,’ and since this is a limited engagement, anyone who has an interest in seeing five-time Tony-winning McDonald give the performance of her career had better get to Circle in the Square pronto. Indeed, anyone with the slightest curiosity about hypnotic acting should leave for the venue this very minute. "David Finkle, Huffington Post
"Audra McDonald has done it again. In ‘Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill,’ a new Broadway drama imagining a late-in-life concert by the great jazz diva Billie Holiday, McDonald delivers a mesmerizing performance that is not so much an act of mimicry or even impersonation as it is a transformation. A record-breaking sixth Tony Award seems like a foregone conclusion. … The actress quickly settles into the role and erases all memory of her operatic belter's soprano and her naturally bubbly personality. In their place: a voice both smoky and breathy, and a demeanor that suggests a hard-lived life in the first half of the 20th century. The physicality of her portrayal is similarly remarkable. Subtly padded in a flowing white gown (by former ‘Project Runway’ finalist ESosa), McDonald convincingly suggests a woman ravaged by years of dependence on alcohol and heroin. She weaves among the café tables at the intimate Circle in the Square, clutching a tumbler of booze or her beloved Chihuahua, Pepi, and stumbles about the concert platform and, in one heart-stopping moment, off of it. … The most remarkable aspect of McDonald’s performance comes at the very end, just after she exhales the last notes of the elegiac ‘Deep Song.’ Instead of retreating backstage before the curtain call, she remains at her microphone and the lights are dimmed before coming up again. And in the blink of that blackout, the actress transforms once more. The light and vitality return to her eyes, along with the familiar glow. It's Audra McDonald before us now, accepting heartfelt thanks for one of the most exquisite and haunting performances we’re likely to see on stage this year."Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly
"Only a fool would second-guess the transformative power of Audra McDonald, but when it was announced that this five-time Tony Award-winner was going to portray Billie Holiday in the Broadway production of ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,’ I must confess that I had my qualms. When one recalls Holiday’s sublimely ruined sound at the end of her career, the period in which Lanie Robertson’s concert drama is set, one doesn’t think of McDonald’s soaring, Juilliard-burnished soprano, a gold medal voice still in its athletic prime. But from the moment McDonald takes the microphone, a metamorphosis more striking than any in Ovid occurs. Gone is the shimmering operatic prowess that powered through ‘Summertime’ in ‘The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,’ the last of McDonald’s Tony-winning performances. In its place are Holiday’s distinctive jazz timing and idiosyncratic phrasing, qualities as singular as fingerprints. Close your eyes and you’d have to believe that some previously unreleased recording of Holiday’s was being piped into Circle in the Square, which has been transformed into this south Philadelphia dive, with tables set up for audience members seated onstage. … The staging by Lonny Price (who directed McDonald in the 2007 Broadway revival of ‘110 in the Shade’) trusts the beguiling power of its star. Genius doesn’t need bells and whistles, and McDonald channeling Holiday gives us not just one but two of the most extraordinarily gifted dramatic vocalists America has produced."Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times
"When Audra McDonald takes to the stage and pours her heart into her voice in ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,’ a similar sustained hush settles over the Circle in the Square, where the show opened on Broadway on Sunday night for a limited run. With her plush, classically trained soprano scaled down to jazz-soloist size, Ms. McDonald sings selections from Holiday’s repertoire with sensitive musicianship and rich seams of feeling that command rapt admiration. Although Ms. McDonald, a five-time Tony winner and an accomplished recitalist, has her own natural authority onstage, in this show, she submerges her identity in Holiday’s as an act of loving tribute to an artist whose difficult career exacted a painful price. … Ms. McDonald breathe[s] aching life into some of Holiday’s greatest songs. She has tamped down the lush bloom of her voice to suggest the withered state of Holiday’s instrument during the last years of her career, but the sound remains tangy, expressive and rich. … Holiday’s almost girlish timbre, darkened by age and use, and her tremulous vibrato are evoked with an eerie exactitude, and the dramatic moans, sliding downward in pitch on climactic notes in songs like ‘Strange Fruit,’ are replicated with startling precision. It’s a delight, too, to hear Ms. McDonald get to swing on some of the up-tempo numbers, like ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Nobody’s Business.’ She also dawdles a little behind the beat on some numbers, as Holiday sometimes did, without ever distorting the shape of the music. The bloodletting heartbreakers are, of course, the most mesmerizing performances: the rueful ‘God Bless the Child,’ the harrowing protest song ‘Strange Fruit.’ Ms. McDonald’s career has been in many ways a blessed one (five Tonys at just 43, when Holiday was nearing her end), but by burrowing into the music and channeling Holiday’s distinctive sound, she has forged a connection with the great, doomed artist she is portraying that feels truthful and moves well beyond impersonation into intimate identification. When she sings, there appears before us the ghostly image of an artist who could only find equilibrium in her life when she lost herself in her music."Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
"In ‘Deep Song,’ the closing number performed by the intoxicating Audra McDonald as the intoxicated Billie Holiday in ‘Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill,’ the character sings with haunted self-knowledge, ‘I only know misery has to be part of me.’ Along with salty humor, joy, bitterness and plummeting despair, that sense of suffering as a constant companion permeates and elevates Lanie Robertson's slender yet affecting bio-play with music, crafted as a woozy late-night concert in the South Philly locale of the title, a few months before the singer's death. … McDonald inhabits the role with such respect for the damaged character she's playing – not to mention such uncanny vocal transformation – that what could be a fragile construct becomes an immersive drama graced with complex character shadings. … At the relatively young age of 43, McDonald already has five Tony Awards on her shelf, putting her in a league with some of the all-time greats of the American stage. Her powerful rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ as the Mother Abbess on NBC's ‘The Sound of Music Live!’ in December let a much wider audience in on the secret of her extraordinary gifts. Physically, McDonald of course looks far healthier than Holiday did near the end, and vocally, this Juilliard-trained soprano could hardly have less in common with the jazz legend. But her astonishing interpretation of signature songs like ‘God Bless the Child’ and ‘Strange Fruit’ captures the subject's essence in ways that transcend mimicry. Plunging beneath her natural register, McDonald nails the scratchy, conversational quality of Holiday's voice in her later years, the distinctive idiosyncrasies of her phrasing and intonation, but also her unique way of penetrating the heart of a lyric. McDonald can also be playful in her homage, for instance when she luxuriates in the howls and growls and sexy swoons of ‘What a Little Moonlight Can Do.’ Watching such a consummate performer lose herself in the character and her music, it's clear there’s not just diligent research here but also a profound empathy with the tragic struggle of Holiday's tempestuous life."David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
"For Audra McDonald, who is channeling a fitful night in the life and music of the famously tortured Billie Holiday in ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill’ on Broadway, the shoe fits better than a proverbial glove. It’s not only a consummate performance of skill and craft that borders on the supernatural; it’s the performance of the year. … She’s done her research like an architect digging up a pharaoh’s tomb, lowered her keys and poured herself into a skintight white gown with a trademark gardenia in her hair, acting out the booze and smack, the voice wobbly in the vowels, then stretching out the long notes on the end of phrases until the transformation is astounding. She leaves you shaking. … Audra McDonald lives and sings it all, conjuring the need for adjectives like mesmerizing, captivating, galvanizing… "Rex Reed, New York Observer
"Audra McDonald's Billie Holiday is one hell of a transformation. McDonald, who has received five Tony Awards for her performances on Broadway over the past two decades, could easily win yet another for her meticulously sloppy, altogether spellbinding portrayal of the legendary jazz singer Holiday in ‘Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill.’"Matt Windman, AM New York
"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
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill PS Classics (2014)
Go Back Home Nonesuch Records (2013)
The Sound of Music Sony Masterworks (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)