What You Missed at Seth Rudetsky’s Inaugural Broadway at Town Hall Concert Starring Audra McDonald | Playbill

Special Features What You Missed at Seth Rudetsky’s Inaugural Broadway at Town Hall Concert Starring Audra McDonald McDonald shared personal stories while delivering a world-class performance of songs from her career.
Seth Rudetsky and Audra McDonald Sachyn Mital

Seth Rudetsky and Audra McDonald have been friends “forever” and nothing was more clear when the two of them took to the Town Hall stage November 12 for Rudetsky’s inaugural Broadway at Town Hall concert.

Structured as an evening of unexpected songs and unfettered storytelling, Broadway at Town Hall is half concert, half talk-show and McDonald—as the special guest—has no idea (beyond the opening number) what’s coming. After each song, Rudetsky peppered McDonald with questions about her life and career and then yanked her out of storytime to sing a song inspired by her stories. McDonald never knew what was coming next, making her performance all the more impressive. And Rudetsky knows what audiences want to hear. When McDonald remarked that she felt as though she’d only been singing 11 o’clock numbers, Rudetsky quipped, “Yes, it’s called an enjoyable concert.”

Seth Rudetsky and Audra McDonald Sachyn Mital

Here are the songs and a selection of stories you missed from Broadway at Town Hall Starring Seth Rudetsky and Audra McDonald:

"I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles
After opening with the power ballad from Jerry Herman’s score, McDonald shared stories about her childhood, growing up in Fresno, California. “Fres-yes!” she exclaimed. She recounted how she came to the arts (her parents attended a performance at a local dinner theatre and thought their hyperactive child could pour her energy into art) and what made her audition for Juilliard (an elder classmate had done so the year before). But she also revealed that during her trip to audition for Juilliard, McDonald saw Into the Woods with Phylicia Rashad as The Witch. McDonald got to visit backstage because the actor playing Cinderella’s prince was also from Fresno. In preparation, McDonald wrote a letter to Bernadette Peters she thought he could deliver. “What did it say?” Rudetsky asked. Admiration, of course, because she wanted to do what Peters does, but also, how she loves her amazing hair because “it’s just like mine.” Which led to...

"Children Will Listen/You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught" from Into the Woods/South Pacific
McDonald shared more stories about her time at Juilliard and how her professors battled to get her to sing classically as a student pursuing her B.M. in Music with a major in voice. But they couldn’t get the Broadway out of her. Then Barbara Cook came to the school to teach a master class and all McDonald wanted to do was be among the students chosen to perform for her. She did not sing for Cook that day, but the two did become friends and perform together later in life. Which led to...

"Vanilla Ice Cream" from She Loves Me
After her tribute to the late soprano, Rudetsky asked McDonald about what it’s like to watch the Tony Awards at home as a kid and then have your dream become your reality. McDonald walked the audience through the “run of show” for one of the most exhausting days of the calendar year, but shared this story about Tony day when she was in Porgy & Bess: The show was lengthy and McDonald and co-stars Norm Lewis, David Alan Grier, and Philip Boykin had limited time to get out of costume, dry off, get glam and head to the Tony Awards red carpet. Then a knock on her dressing room door. Liza was there to say hello. In walked Liza Minnelli (“She was chatty that day,” McDonald joked) and McDonald had to reconcile that she might have to rush one of her idols out the door to make to to the Tony Awards on time. Which led to...

"Maybe This Time" from Cabaret
Straight into...

"The Facebook Song" by Kate Miller-Heidke
Liza Minnelli and Barbra Cook are two of icons McDonald met during her career, but she also met her idol: Barbra Streisand. Though early interactions with Streisand may not have lived up to her dream, the two performers are now friends. In fact, McDonald grew up singing her work. Which led to...

"Cornet Man" from Funny Girl
Rudetsky and McDonald have been friends for so long, apparently there is a disagreement about how they met. McDonald is convinced they met during auditions for a production of Evita in Bucks County where she booked the titular role. Though Rudetsky disagrees, as “punishment” this led to...

Evita “medley”
With Rudetsky singing one line, he tested how well McDonald knew the subsequent line beginning with “Eva, Beware of the City.” Clearly caught off guard, McDonald still managed to wow. Rudetsky continued to rewind back to McDonald’s childhood to a story about starring in Hansel & Gretel as The Witch. She was in fourth grade and this was a play, but a young McDonald asked her teacher if, after the Witch dies, she could come back and sing a song. Which led to the song she sang as an eight-year-old...

The Rose”
The audience joined in a sing-along for this Bette Midler classic before McDonald reclaimed her seat for more stories. She spoke about singing for Stephen Sondheim at the PEN Gala when they honored the Tony-winning songwriter. As McDonald explained, you can never lose your place in a Sondheim lyric or you’ll never be able to get back on the train. Well, at the gala there were massive video screens showing what was onstage—but those screens faced the stage. McDonald got up to sing from A Little Night Music and saw herself on screen and thought “Oh my G-d, my mouth is HUGE!” and lost her place in the lyrics. Which led to...

"The Glamorous Life" from A Little Night Music
McDonald mastered the performance of the rollercoaster song. To which Rudetsky said, “Time for an 11 o’clock number.” Which led to...

"I’ll be Here" from Ordinary Days
Teary-eyed after singing this one, McDonald shared why she had flown in on a red-eye to make it to Town Hall. She had been in Los Angeles, performing in tribute to Craig Zadan, the influential producer who, along with producing partner Neil Meron, brought Cinderella and Gypsy to the small screen as made-for-TV movies and first created the live television musical events with The Sounds of Music Live!. McDonald shared that Zadan was the one who felt she should be cast as Mother Abbess and that he wanted her anthem to be McDonald’s song. Which led to...

"Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music
Cue the bows!! The audience leapt to their feet and would not stop applauding which led to...

"Summertime "from The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess
McDonald won her fifth Tony for Porgy & Bess, but thanks to the acoustics of Town Hall, she sang the Gershwin tune without a microphone, ending the evening on a high.

Seth Rudetsky returns for more Broadway at Town Hall with Kelli O’Hara January 14 and again with Jeremy Jordan March 11.

Photos: Broadway @ Town Hall Featuring Audra McDonald


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