Six-time Tony Award-winning actress Audra McDonald startled Broadway May 10 with the news that she is taking a leave from the just-opened Shuffle Along Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, because she is going to have a baby.
It's being billed as a “temporary maternity leave” that will begin July 24. McDonald was already scheduled to take a leave from the show this summer to recreate her performance in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill in London, but that production has now been postponed. Her return date was not specified.
Grammy Award-winning singer Rhiannon Giddens will replace her in Shuffle Along's lead female role of Lottie Gee. In addition, it was announced that the show's choreographer, master tap dancer Savion Glover, will also join the cast, but his role was not immediately announced. The official statement reads, ”Savion Glover...will also step into the show, as envisioned by the director and book writer, George C. Wolfe.”
The New York Post quoted an anonymous source saying that Wolfe is “going to thread him in as ‘specialty material‘” in an effort to boost ticket sales.
McDonald released a statement saying, “Who knew that tap dancing during perimenopause could lead to pregnancy? Will and I are completely surprised—and elated—to be expecting a new addition to our family. I am so very grateful to everyone in New York and London for allowing me to rearrange my schedule to accommodate this little miracle. While I’m disappointed I have to postpone my West End debut in Lady Day, I’m glad I’ll be able to spend a little more time in Shuffle Along this summer and will look forward to setting up a 1920s-themed nursery in my dressing room when I return to the show.”
Audra and her husband, actor Will Swenson, married in 2012, and that while this is their first child together, she is mother to a daughter, and he is father to two sons, from their previous marriages.
According to production notes, Giddens is a 2000 graduate of Oberlin Conservatory, where she studied opera. The North Carolina native is a founding member of the Grammy Award-winning African American folk band, Carolina Chocolate Drops. In September 2013, she stopped the show and brought the audience to its feet at the Another Day, Another Time concert, produced by T Bone Burnett and Joel and Ethan Coen at Town Hall. In 2014, Giddens recorded alongside Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith and Jim James for Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes, a compilation of previously unreleased songs written by Bob Dylan. In February 2015, she released her solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn on Nonesuch Records, including songs written by Patsy Cline, Odetta, Dolly Parton and Nina Simone, among others. Shuffle Along will mark Giddens’ Broadway debut.
Winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, Shuffle Along is now nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Presenting both the 1921 musical itself, it additionally details the events that catalyzed the songwriting team of Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, and librettists F.E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles to create this ground-breaking work. Shuffle Along has a new book by George C. Wolfe, is choreographed by Savion Glover, and is directed by Wolfe. Shuffle Along marks the first time that the writer/director and choreographer have worked together since their 1996 hit Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk. The production is playing at the Music Box Theatre (239 West 45th Street).
The new musical stars six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, Tony Award-winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter, and Tony Award-nominees Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry, featuring Brooks Ashmanskas, Adrienne Warren, Amber Iman, Phillip Attmore, Alexandria Bradley, Darlesia Cearcy, Darius de Haas, C.K. Edwards, Leo Ash Evens, Afra Hines, Curtis Holland, Jason Holley, Adrienne Howard, Lee Howard, Kendrick Jones, Lisa LaTouche, Alicia Lundgren, JC Montgomery, Erin N. Moore, Janelle Neal, Brittany Parks, Arbender Robinson, Karissa Royster, Britton Smith, Zurin Villanueva, Christian Dante White, Joseph Wiggan, Pamela Yasutake, and Richard Riaz Yoder.
Tickets to Shuffle Along are available by calling (212) 239-6200 or visiting Telecharge.com.