Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald and Barbara Cook, premier interpreters of the American songbook from two different generations, have performed together many times before. But this time, it's different.
Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald Photo by Michael Wilson

On Oct. 19, the two titanic talents will join forces at the Al Hirshfeld Theatre to support America Votes, a grassroots voter mobilization effort. A coalition of labor unions, Sierra Club, NAACP and other like-minded groups, America Votes hopes to inspire voter turnout. And in case you're wondering who they want the voters to turn out for, the name of the benefit concert is Broadway Voices for Change. Showbiz spouses Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick will be on hand as hosts of the event, which is produced by David Binder and Brian Savelson. Seats sell from $50 to $99 and are available at or (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250. McDonald talked to about how her wish to help the Barack Obama campaign came true with this concert. How did this benefit performance come about?
Audra McDonald: I got this call from David Binder. He said, "Audra, I'm worried. I'm worried about what's happening in the country. We've got to do something. We've got to make sure we're going in the right direction." I had been having the same thoughts. I was worried and wanted to do something. I'm an Obama freak. I wanted to do something to help his campaign. I take it David Binder is also an Obama supporter.
AM: Oh, yes. So the money raised from this event will go to America Votes, which is described as "a coalition of more than 40 of the most powerful national groups working together to increase progressive voter registration and turnout." So they take the money and do what with it?
AM: They are going to use the money to get the vote out in key swing states, and try to influence the turnout there. How did Barbara Cook get involved?
AM: Well, I had called Barbara a month before and said, "I want to do something for the Obama campaign. Will you help?" And she, "Oh, sure, whatever you want, dear." She's so sweet! (Laughs) But my schedule has been so crazy. I'm working in L.A., and I'm living in New York. My heart's in New York, my kid's here. So I'm on a plane like every three days. So I just couldn't get anything going. Then David called and I said, "Yes! You're the thing I need. I need a producer. You're the missing element." And then it started falling into place. So the entertainment is basically you and Barbara. Will you be singing songs with a political bent?
AM: Well, I think you'll be able to mine the songs I've selected for political meaning. It's there. I chose them for that reason. Can you reveal what some of the songs will be?
AM: Hm. Can I? Well, I guess I can. I'll be singing "There Won't Be Trumpets," which I think is appropriate: "Those smug little men with their smug little schemes/They forgot one thing:/The play isn't over by a long shot yet!/There are heroes in the world,/Princes are heroes in the world,/And one of them will save us." And at the end Barbara and I will sing a kind of medley of songs. I don't like calling it a medley, but I sing something, then she sings something, then I sing something, and then they all string together. So I guess that a medley makes. And it looks like we'll have one surprise guest who'll sing with me. Will any politicians be making appearances?
AM: No, no. What will the hosts, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, do? Just introduce you?
AM: They'll just be acting as our hosts. Of course, it would be great if we could get them to sing. Well, they can sing.
AM: I know! I know, it would be so great! Matthew could sing "Brotherhood of Man" from How to Succeed…. That would be thematic in terms of the evening.
AM: That's right! Oh, my goodness.

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