Onstage & Backstage: Why Was Audra McDonald Hiding Her Hand on "Live from Lincoln Center?"

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Why Was Audra McDonald Hiding Her Hand on "Live from Lincoln Center?"
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky uncovers the reason Audra was precariously posing as she hosted "Live from Lincoln Center" on New Year's Eve. Plus, details from Seth's concert with Audra and Will Swenson and a special announcement about Disaster!
Audra McDonald and Will Swenson
Audra McDonald and Will Swenson Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Happy New Year! What's new about it? Well, first the backstory: We lost our little black doggie, Sonora, in September and Juli has been asking for another one since then. Juli was especially close with her because she and Sonora were born a few months apart, and they grew up together. We told Juli last fall we were definitely going to get another dog for her soon.

Cut to: James had been feeling down this month because it's the one-year anniversary of when our sweet Scooby passed away. He went from "we should get another dog for Juli eventually" into non-stop checking of the mobile app for the Animal Care Center, which is the same shelter where we got Mandy last year. The mobile app has adorable photos of all the animals that are available for adoption with descriptions underneath from the volunteers who walk them every day. James was constantly and I mean constantly looking. Not since I was single and scouring Match.com every hour on the hour have I seen anyone scanning through photos more obsessively.

At Animal Care Center
At Animal Care Center

Finally, on New Year's Eve afternoon, he sent me a photo of a doggie in a cage. Yes, he and his mom had taken a quick little trip to the shelter "just for fun" (AKA to come home with a doggie), and he found a sweet beagle mixed with a daschund. Of course, the picture of that little guy in a cage was all it took for me to immediately agree and, a few hours later, James and his mom arrived with our newest family member. We then realized that we never consulted the one person who had asked for a new dog in the first place: Juli! Uh-oh.

When James and the dog arrived, Juli was downstairs in a "I wasn't consulted, therefore I don't want to meet him" mood. I convinced her to come outside just to say hi, and literally within five seconds she fell in love with him. Juli can't believe how cute he is, how sweet he is and how soft his ears are. And he now sleeps in her room every night!


P.S. Why haven't I mentioned his name? Well, when we got him, we were told his name was Marley. But then we looked at his full story and found out that a family had him for three years, gave him to a shelter (!), then someone else adopted him for one year and gave him back to the shelter!!! The people who had him for one year called him "Marley" and that's what we were calling him for a few days. But we then discovered that for the bulk of his life, he'd been called "Bagel." We tested out both names, and he definitely responds more to "Bagel." Yes, it's completely not a name I would have chosen, especially now that I'm cutting carbs to fit into my costume, but he's spent three years of his life as that name and we're committing to it! In conclusion, adding a brand new animal to the house is just what we need right when I begin rehearsals for Disaster! while James is busy every day as one of the producers. "I'm sure it will all work out," said the person in denial.

Mandy and Bagel
Mandy and Bagel

Anyhoo, I just got back from Ft. Lauderdale because I did a show at the Parker Playhouse with Audra McDonald and Will Swenson.  This is my last out-of-town gig because Disaster! is a-startin'. Speaking of which, I'm going to chronicle the entire journey here on Playbill! I'll be showing pictures, videos and writing about everything from the very first rehearsal to opening night. I co-wrote the show, am music supervisor and I'm in it, so I really wanted to add one more thing to be responsible for.

Any to the hoo, my show with Audra and Will was a great way to start the year. She told us that she recently did a concert in South Carolina and performed a song where she used the F word. She warned the audience beforehand that it was a blue song and they should take a break if they didn't want to hear it. Cut to: An audience member wrote an angry letter to the editor of a southern newspaper because he was outraged Audra used that language in front of his daughter (who was college age P.S.). He added that the "worst part of the performance" was the fact that she used "Over The Rainbow" to "promote homosexuality." He added that she "sanitized the perversion by calling it 'marriage equality'" and lamented how she used talent to "draw us into her liberal activist web." Side note: If you want to be drawn into that web, make a donation to Covenant House which helps children who are homeless.

Audra made a donation there for the opening night present for the cast of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill because Billie Holliday had been raped when she was ten and spent the bulk of her childhood as a prostitute and homeless. Audra felt if there had been a place like Covenant House, things maybe would have been better for Billie Holliday. Audra showed up to make her donation and there were two security guards who were joking with her and even being a bit flirty. Suddenly, a teenage kid came in carrying a hefty bag of his belongings. Audra said he was being both defensive and defenseless. Those two security guards who seemed so relaxed sprang into action and were suddenly incredibly caring and comforting to the kid. Audra was so impressed that she turned her one-time opening night donation into joining international board of directors! Here's where you can donate

Audra did our concert with a bandage on her hand from a New Year's Eve injury. She told us that she woke up that morning, did a seven-minute workout (which I dished, but she claims really works) and decided to make herself a healthy smoothie. She had been eyeing an avocado for weeks waiting for it to get to the perfect ripeness. Finally, it was j-u-u-u-u-st right, and as she was slicing into it she also sliced into her hand! She was bleeding nonstop and finally her houseguest told her she had to go the ER. She called Lincoln Center and said she had to get stitches so she'd be late for rehearsal for her hosting of "Live from Lincoln Center." She told me she had to get a needle in the wound to numb it, or as she said, "You've already stabbed it, time to stab it again." However, while the doctor was stitching it up she realized that only one side of the wound was numb! So that means that while the needle went out she felt nothing, but she could feel it every time it went in!!! Happy New Year? That night, she had a crazy giant bandage on and "Live from Lincoln Center" tried to film her in close-up, but they finally told her they were going to do a long shot and she had to "sassily" pose with one hand behind her back. Not since this site I found with the option of buying "Small Child Girl Realistic Fiberglass Mannequin in One Hand Behind Back Pose."


Audra and I were also talking about when she did A Raisin in the Sun and how that audience wasn't necessarily used to seeing Broadway shows and didn't know the rules that apply. She said there was one moment where her normally depressed character came on in a good mood. She was supposed to exhibit her happiness by humming softly. She came onstage, hummed a few notes, and someone immediately yelled, "Sang, Audra!"

Her charming husband, Will Swenson, did the concert with us, and I was mentioning how Audra and he got married the same time James and I did, and also how Juli and Zoe (Audra's daughter) are the same age. I summed up by commenting that Audra and I were extremely similar…except in the Tony Awards department. Will told me I should do what he does, which is tell people, "Between Audra and me, we have six Tony Awards!"

He told us how he recently went back to Les Miz to play Javert for a month. He hadn't done the show in a really long time and had a very quick rehearsal period. That manifested itself in a wonderful lyric mishap during Fantine's arrest. He's supposed to describe the area where Parisian hookers and thieves congregate by singing

"In this nest of whores and vipers." Instead, he panicked and sang "In this vest of oars and hypers." Hmm…it definitely fits into the rhyme scheme and has the same syllables, but instead of Javert singing about a seedy part of Paris, he's describing a stunning vest made for someone with A.D.D. who's on the rowing team.

All right, I'm off to the first day of Disaster! rehearsal. 

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