Thursday, 13 April 2017

Review Broadway @ The Leicester Square Theatre - Audra McDonald


Broadway @ The Leicester Square Theatre
Audra McDonald
With Special Guest Will Swenson
And Seth Rudetsky As Pianist And Host

Drama Queen
www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/

TLT and her little jalopy powered by its own tuneful critical engine have to admit finding the correct adjectives for a show without repetition from previous reviews is sometimes something of a chore. This time though the task is finding the uncorny superlatives to describe the majestic leading lady of American musical theatre that is Audra McDonald.

She returns to the Leicester Square Theatre for a short run  in cabaret and conversation with piano accompanist Seth Rudetsky before her London West End musical theatre debut as jazz legend Billie Holiday in  Lady Day At Emerson's Bar And Grill   

Between the songs demonstrating the musical and dramatic range of her expressive, lyric mezzo soprano voice, there is relaxed showbiz banter, reflections on her life and career with host Seth Rudetsky.

The special guest just happens to be one Will Swenson (her spouse), taking time off from Broadway musical Waitress,  making this of course a family affair. Unseen backstage, she tells us, is her teenage daughter and her almost new-born baby daughter. It's a well-honed format showing a healthy and straightforward appreciation for the audience which queued round the block on press night.

Starting with the political love song When Did I Fall In Love from Jerome Weidman and George Abbott's Fiorella, she brings her clear but always warm and emotionally rich voice, to a wide-ranging repertoire of songs.

While her repertoire includes Kander & Ebb, Lerner and Loew, Sondheim, Gershwin, Rogers & Hammerstein, Amanda McBroom and Neil Diamond, she also brings to the fore newer musical theatre composers and lyricists such as Fred Ebb Award-winners Adam Gwon and Jeff Blumenkrantz, Annie Kessler and Libby Saines, along with Gabriel Kahane and Jason Robert Brown.

Trained as an opera singer at The Julliard School (where she first linked up with Rudetsky when he was her accompanist on the piano), her classical background - she mentions Mozart - gives her performance power and precision. But at the same time this flawless technique is also combined with an ease and sensitivity as an actress with natural breaths and conversational tone hitting the  emotional - and comic - notes

She embraces the melodic storytelling in redemptive love song I'll Be Here from Gwon's Ordinary Days and I Won't Mind from a still-to-be produced musical The Other Franklin from Blumenkrantz, Kessler and Saines to Kahane's modern witty twist on the Lieder with 21st century poetry from, er,  Craigslist ads. It really works.

Her diverse but subtly-themed range of songs  is an education in itself  with the well-known in the joyful intensity of I Could Have Danced All Night and thrilling performances of Climb Every Mountain and Summertime, as well as terrific renditions of Maybe This Time from Cabaret and The Rose from the movie of the same name.

Of course we feel a TLT accolade  is up there with the half a dozen Tonys for straight acting and musical theatre and a couple of Grammys and so we tear open our envelope to announce the  TLT  sparkling green light goes to Audra McDonald. Catch this glorious yet intimate show while you can - it runs until Saturday


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