Audra McDonald Wows Crowds at American Songbook Opener

News   Audra McDonald Wows Crowds at American Songbook Opener Despite a bout with the flu that forced the cancellation of her Jan. 6 concert, four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald played to sold-out crowds and standing ovations Jan. 7 and 8 at the Time Warner Center's new Rose Theatre.

The weekend of concerts marked the opening of the seventh season of Lincoln Center's acclaimed American Songbook series, which is devoted to the popular American song. McDonald, most recently on Broadway in the hit revival of A Raisin in the Sun, ventured into somewhat new territory for her Songbook weekend, exploring the works of more contemporary writers like Randy Newman, Rufus Wainwright, John Mayer and Elvis Costello. The actress-singer also included tunes from several of the composers she has championed throughout her career: Michael John LaChiusa, Ricky Ian Gordon and Adam Guettel.

McDonald, who sipped Gatorade throughout the intermissionless 90-minute concert, was backed by a ten-piece band that featured musical director Ted Sperling on piano, Antoine Silverman on violin, Michael Nicholas on viola, Anja Wood on cello, Aaron Heick on woodwinds, Kevin Kuhn on guitars, Matt Beck on guitars, Peter Donovan on bass, Dave Ratajczak on drums and percussion and Daniel Lipton on keyboards.

Among the songs McDonald interpreted were "When Lola Sings," a tune Michael John LaChiusa wrote especially for the occasion; Randy Newman's "Last Night I Had a Dream" and "I Think It's Going to Rain Today"; Rufus Wainwright's "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" and "Damned Ladies"; Adam Guettel's "Life Is But a Dream"; Jane Kelly Williams' "Wonderful You"; John Mayer's "My Stupid Mouth"; Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach's "God Give Me Strength"; Nellie McKay's "I Wanna Get Married"; Jonathan Larson's "Hosing the Furniture"; Jessica Molaskey and Ricky Ian Gordon's "Cradle and All"; Stevie Wonder's "Happier than the Morning Sun"; Dan Lipton's "Where Would I Be Now"; Joe Raposo's "Bein' Green"; and Laura Nyro's "Tom Cat Goodbye."

At Saturday evening's performance at the Rose Theatre, McDonald returned for two encores: Bock and Harnick's "When Did I Fall in Love?" and an unmiked version of John Bucchino's "It Feels Like Home."

For more information about Lincoln Center's American Songbook series, visit www.lincolncenter.org.