From Jan. 6-8, the award-winning singer-actress will present a brand-new concert celebrating contemporary pop composers at the new Rose Theater in the Frederick P. Rose Hall at the Time Warner Center. McDonald's evenings will boast works by Elvis Costello, Laura Nyro, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Prince. Featuring a ten-piece band, the concerts will also include songs by such McDonald favorites as Michael John LaChiusa and Adam Guettel. (McDonald is also at work on a new album that will feature the works of these many composers.)
About her American Songbook concerts, McDonald recently told Playbill On-Line, "We always try and put a few of our favorites in, but it's basically a new show. We're doing a lot of works by these composers and then some pop material, trying to explore the bridge between their work and the pop world. I'm not crossing over — this is not Audra's big crossover," she laughed. "I'm not becoming Britney Spears. Actually, a lot of the music I've chosen is music that I think could have been conceived for any musical in this day and age."
The Great American Song
Lincoln Center's American Songbook series tunes up for an illustrious seventh season.
When asked about how she chooses songs for her concerts, the singer explained, "I pick a lot of it, but I get a lot of ideas thrown at me from different places. My music director, Ted Sperling, helps a lot. I also have a lot of people whose taste in music I appreciate and respect. Certain things — like the Laura Nyro tunes — came from [conductor] Michael Tilson Thomas back in 1998. And, the Elvis Costello tune was a tune that a pianist of mine suggested that I sing, and then I was chatting with [jazz vocalist] Diana Krall, and she said, 'You know what song you should sing? My husband's.' When things like that drop into your lap or come across your consciousness like that, I try and pay attention to them." McDonald, who was last on Broadway in the critically acclaimed revival of A Raisin in the Sun, has several other projects in the works. She recently workshopped a new production of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones' 110 in the Shade, and she will make her Houston Opera debut in 2006 in Francis Poulenc's La Voix Humaine.
A four-time Tony Award winner for her work in A Raisin in the Sun, Master Class, Carousel and Ragtime, Audra McDonald was also on Broadway last season in Henry IV. The singer-actress made her solo Carnegie Hall concert debut in an evening of songs scored for big bands, performing several tunes from her Nonesuch CD "Happy Songs." McDonald's other solo recordings, "Way Back to Paradise" and "How Glory Goes," are also on the Nonesuch label. She also co-starred in the recent NBC series "Mister Sterling.” The Frederick P. Rose Hall is located within the Time Warner Center at Broadway at 60th Street. Tickets for American Songbook are available by calling (212) 721-6500. Visit www.lincolncenter.org for more information.
Another highlight of the current American Songbook season is a semi-staged concert of the Tony Award-winning musical Passion, which will be presented March 30-April 1. Tony Award winners Patti LuPone (Fosca), Audra McDonald (Clara) and Michael Cerveris (Giorgio), who starred in the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical at Chicago's Ravinia Festival, will re-create their performances for Lincoln Center audiences at the Rose Theatre. The threesome will be backed by a 56-piece orchestra.
Several evenings of "Classic Cabaret" will be presented in the Allen Room of Rose Hall, the new 470-seat space that overlooks Central Park. Rebecca Luker, seen on Broadway in Show Boat, The Music Man and The Sound of Music, will make her New York solo concert debut Feb. 12 with an evening of Broadway and popular standards. Ann Hampton Callaway will host "Café Society, Table for Three" on Feb. 25. That evening will reunite Blossom Dearie and Julie Wilson and will feature performances from all three cabaret greats. And, Tony and new Emmy Award winner Elaine Stritch will offer her one-woman show March 4.
Staged readings will also be part of this year's American Songbook series. On Feb. 2 Michael Mayer will direct a staged concert reading of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Spring Awakening, a new musical based on Frank Wedekind's 1891 tragedy. And, Joan Morris and Jason Danieley will head the cast of a staged reading of Casino Paradise, a new musical by William Bolcolm and Arnold Weinstein. Lisa Peterson will direct the Feb. 9 evening, also in the Allen Room.
Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins, recently on Broadway in Caroline, or Change, will celebrate the Harold Arlen centenary with an evening devoted to the late composer. On Feb. 26 Pinkins will interpret such Arlen classics as "The Man That Got Away," "That Old Black Magic" and "I've Got the World on a String."
Black History Month will be celebrated in February with two special events. On Feb. 4, singer-actor Darius de Haas will reprise his acclaimed tribute to Steve Wonder, entitled "The Stevie Wonder Songbook." De Haas will wrap his soaring tenor around "As," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," "I'm Yours," "Visions" and "Summer Soft." De Haas will also be one of the participants in the Feb. 23 evening, "New York Festival of Song's At Harlem's Height." That evening will combine spoken word and music, featuring the songs of Eubie Blake, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and others. Joining de Haas will be pianists Michael Barrett and Steven Blier and vocalists Dana Blanchard and James Martin.
Other highlights in the Allen Room: Grammy Award winner Rosanne Cash performs her one-woman show Feb. 10; singer/songwriter Laura Cantrell offers a concert of country and folk Feb. 24; and Dar Williams, who blends folk and pop, will perform March 3. Also, singer/songwriter Nellie McKay performs March 1 and an evening of spoken word and music — titled "McSweeney's vs. They Might Be Giants" — will be presented March 2.
Three recent additions to the season's schedule: Jane Krakowski, a Tony Award winner for her performance in the revival of Maury Yeston's Nine, will make her solo concert debut Feb. 1, 2005, at the Allen Room. Megan Mullally, of TV's "Will & Grace" fame, will also perform at the Allen Room on Feb. 11. The singer-actress will be accompanied by her band, the Supreme Music Program. Also new to the Songbook line-up is singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb, who will play the Allen Room Feb. 3.