Playbill celebrates the birthday of six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald July 3 with 13 videos that look back at the career of the history-making artist.
Performances were chosen by and feature commentary by senior news editor Andrew Gans.
In 2014 McDonald made history when she won her sixth Tony Award for her astonishing performance as the legendary jazz vocalist Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, breaking the record for winning the most acting performance Tony Awards and becoming the first performer to win in all four performance categories: Best Actress in a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Best Actress in a Play, and Best Featured Actress in a Play. McDonald was previously Tony-honored for her equally stellar work in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, A Raisin in the Sun, Ragtime, Master Class, and Carousel, and she received additional nominations for 110 in the Shade and Marie Christine. She is equally impressive on the concert stage; in fact, those who have been lucky enough to witness McDonald live know that the stage and screen star is one of the most riveting performers around. Not only does she boast a lush voice that can belt or soar to the stratosphere, but she manages to imbue each song with irresistible honesty and emotion.
In 1994 McDonald won her first Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Carrie Pipperidge in the Tony-winning revival of Carousel. Here, she performs a medley of songs from the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II score, including "If I Loved You," "(When I Marry) Mister Snow" (McDonald's solo in the revival), "June Is Bustin' Out All Over," and "You'll Never Walk Alone."
"Vieni t’affretta" from Verdi’s Macbeth in Master Class
In 1996 McDonald won her second Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play as Juilliard student and aspiring opera singer Sharon Graham in Terrence McNally's Tony-winning Master Class. In this press footage, McDonald performs for the Maria Callas of late Tony winner Zoe Caldwell.
"Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime
In 1998 McDonald won her third Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for playing the struggling Sarah in the epic Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens-Terrence McNally musical Ragtime. At the 1997 Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Jessye Norman, McDonald and Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell performed a soaring version of "Wheels of a Dream" from Flaherty and Ahrens' Tony-winning score.
"Stars and the Moon"
In 1998 McDonald released her first solo recording, Way Back to Paradise, which spotlighted a host of then-young songwriters. One of the gems of the recording was Jason Robert Brown's "Stars and the Moon," which McDonald performs here in concert.
"Raunchy" from 110 in the Shade
In 2007 McDonald gave one of the most moving performances of the season as the "plain" Lizzie who learns to love herself and others in the Tony-nominated revival of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's 110 in the Shade. McDonald and John Cullum were both Tony-nominated for their work and performed "Raunchy" on the Tony Awards broadcast.
"The Glamorous Life" from A Little Night Music
At Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday celebration at Avery Fisher Hall in 2010, McDonald was one of the six Broadway leading ladies dressed in red, and she turned A Little Night Music's "The Glamorous Life" into a powerful one-act play.
"Dreamgirls" from Dreamgirls
In 2011 The Actors Fund presented one of its most exciting benefit concerts, Dreamgirls, featuring Tony winners McDonald, Lillias White, and Heather Headley. In Seth Rudetsky's Behind the Belters: The Making of the 'Dreamgirls' Concert!, clips of the thrilling performance, including the title song, can be viewed beginning at the 1:20 mark.
"I Loves You, Porgy" from The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
McDonald added a fifth Tony Award to her mantel in 2012 for her breathtaking performance in half of the title role in the revival of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, which co-starred Norm Lewis. Here, the two perform a riveting rendition of "I Loves You, Porgy."
"Maybe This Time" from Cabaret
McDonald puts her own heart-shattering spin on the classic John Kander and Fred Ebb tune in this 2012 concert.
"Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from The Sound of Music
McDonald was one of the highlights of NBC's The Sound of Music Live in 2013, bringing dramatic heft and emotionally rich vocals to the role of Mother Abbess. At a concert at the Kennedy Center, McDonald offered one of her songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein score.
"God Bless The Child" from Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
McDonald's record-breaking Tony win was in 2014 for her uncanny portrayal as the late Billie Holiday in the Broadway premiere of Lanie Robertson's music-filled play Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. Here, McDonald channels the late Holiday in a performance on The View.
"Rainbow High" from Evita
McDonald starred in her high school production of Evita, and in 2015 gave Carnegie Hall audiences a glimpse of her Eva Peron when she belted out Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Rainbow High" to the sold-out crowd.
"Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz
And one more… A gentle, yet touching reading of the Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg classic.