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Broadway-star Audra McDonald visits IU


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By Alyson Malinger



A single drum set, one cello, one piano and a woman in a paneled black gown stepped onto the IU Auditorium stage for a night of classic and contemporary musical numbers from the American ?song book.

A world-renowned actress both on and off the Broadway stage, Audra McDonald visited IU for the first time to both teach and ?perform.

Her performance was part of the series “Audra McDonald in Concert,” which travels across the country.

The concert included a variety of songs McDonald has performed throughout her Broadway career and that helped her become famous, a small dialogue with the audience talking about past experiences in the show business ?career and a compilation of highlights throughout her career.

To open the show, McDonald sang “Sing Happy,” originally sung by the famous Liza Minnelli. The show continued with a compilation of different numbers McDonald said she felt were unique for her ?audience.

“I always try to go off the track and find the hidden gems for songs,” ?McDonald said.

One song from the performance was selected by Stephen Sondheim when McDonald approached him to ask what song of his he would most want her to sing in her concert. ?McDonald performed a song from the second act of “Into the Woods,” portraying the baker’s wife.

“When Sondheim tells you to do something, you do it,” McDonald said.

The show was elevated by various anecdotes about McDonald’s 14-year-old daughter and other members of her family.

McDonald recalled a memory of her niece trying to understand the New York subway system in hopes that it would help her in her personal aspirations to be on Broadway one day.

Famous for her performances on the Broadway stage, opera stages and in both television and movies, McDonald is the recipient of a total of six Tony awards and two Grammy awards, among other accolades.

She was most recently in Lanie Robertson’s musical play “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” in which she portrayed Billie Holiday. An adaptation of the musical play will be coming to HBO in the upcoming months from a live performance set in New Orleans filmed this past December.

In addition to setting the record for most competitive wins by an actor, McDonald also became the first person to receive awards in all four acting categories.

During her visit, McDonald taught a special master’s class for promising IU Department of Theatre and Drama students.

Four undergraduate students previously selected by the department were invited to participate in the class. McDonald sat in on the class and acted as a critic of ?their work.

Each student performed one song from their individual rehearsal portfolios and then received feedback from McDonald on their ?performances.

McDonald discussed one student in particular from the class in her performance because of her song choice, a song that ?happened to be part of McDonald’s set for the night.

“As much as I was teaching her, she was teaching me,” McDonald said. “That’s the best part of the symbiotic relationship in teaching.”

Following her performance, McDonald met with President Michael McRobbie and other University dignitaries and received gratitude on behalf of all of IU for coming to visit the campus.

The proceeds McDonald made from the performance will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign in response to the recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into Indiana law.

“I am so excited to see what this money will do to help others,” ?McDonald said.

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