The Prickle (@ThePrickle) April 12, 2017
Audra McDonald is a goddess. She’s not, obviously, she’s just a human like you and me; however after watching her perform this doesn’t make any sense, so it’s far easier to simply conceive of her as a pure incarnation of the divine. Her stunning fusion of operatic style with contemporary musical theatre, along with being one of the finest actors of her generation, has garnered the Broadway legend an unprecedented/impossible six Tony awards. In the intimate setting of the Leicester Square Theatre, you get to hear the full emotional depth of her voice, with only a grand piano and a curtain behind her.
Having descended from on high to dwell among mortals, she couldn’t be more gracious and comfortable on stage; some might even say human. Hilariously camp host and pianist Seth Rudetsky, having worked with McDonald for years, leads a charming and spontaneous “In Conversation With”. McDonald’s Tony award winning husband Will Swenson also sings, so at the end of all that McDonald only has time for a dozen songs. Some may feel disappointed with this ratio of music to talking in an hour and a half’s show, but there’s no denying that it’s all very entertaining.
McDonald is usually heard against the backdrop of an orchestra, but the full glory of her voice still works set against a piano. The repertoire is mainly contemporary musical theatre, including some (wonderful) brand new work and some Sondheim, but McDonald still makes room for a few classics, including an audience sing-along to “I Could Have Danced All Night”. There’s no Beauty and the Beast (her latest film) or Billie Holiday (her upcoming West End show), but you might get some Porgy and Bess (one of her Tony award winning performances) if a plucky audience member requests it for an encore.
This four-night residency in a small venue allows audiences to get up close and personal with her immortal majesty, without McDonald needing to play a pre-written role, or play to the back of the balcony; she’s just playing herself. Her warm and funny character comes over beautifully in the conversation between the songs, and merely adds to the mounting evidence that she is in fact divine. Though the audience is mainly made up of fans able to keep up with the relentless stagey references, newcomers will also have a ball, and be blown away by her voice. Live in darkness no more, ye sinners of London, for Audra McDonald shall show ye the light.