21C Media Group is thrilled to announce that it now represents singer and actress Audra McDonald for press and public relations. With four Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and a long list of other accolades to her name, the Juilliard-trained soprano returns to performing live full-time this month following four seasons playing Dr. Naomi Bennett on ABC’s hit television series Private Practice. First, she makes her role debut as the title character in a new musical adaptation of the Gershwins’ folk opera, Porgy and Bess. The production – co-starring Norm Lewis as Porgy and David Alan Grier as Sportin’ Life, and directed by the Tony-nominated Diane Paulus – begins previews today, August 17 and opens on August 31 at the American Repertory Theater’s home base of the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In December the production is slated to begin previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City, marking McDonald’s first Broadway appearance since 2007, when she received a Drama Desk Award and a Tony nomination for her performance in 110 in the Shade. Between the runs in Cambridge and New York of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, McDonald embarks on a 20-city concert tour across North America, presenting her trademark mix of show tunes, classic songs from movies, and pieces written expressly for her by leading contemporary composers. Performing with a wide range of ensembles, from solo piano to full orchestra, tour highlights include season-opening concerts at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia (Oct 1) and the Celebrity Series in Boston (Oct 2), as well as performances at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center (Oct 4) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (Oct 22).
Born into a musical family, McDonald grew up in Fresno, California. One year after graduating with a degree in classical voice from the Juilliard School, she won her first Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel at Lincoln Center Theater, directed by Nicholas Hytner. She received two additional Tony Awards in the Featured Actress category over the next four years for her performances in the Broadway premieres of Terrence McNally’s play Master Class (1996) and his musical Ragtime (1998), earning her an unprecedented three Tony Awards before turning 30. In 2004 she won her fourth Tony, starring alongside Sean “Diddy” Combs in A Raisin in the Sun. Her other theater credits include The Secret Garden (1993),Marie Christine (1999), Henry IV (2004), 110 in the Shade (2007), and, most recently, her Public Theater “Shakespeare in the Park” debut in Twelfth Night alongside Anne Hathaway and Raúl Esparza (2009).
McDonald made her opera debut in 2006 at Houston Grand Opera, which featured her in a double-bill of Poulenc’s monodrama La voix humaine and the world premiere of Send, a companion-piece to the Poulenc written by one of her frequent collaborators, composer Michael John LaChiusa. She made her Los Angeles Opera debut in 2007 starring alongside Patti LuPone in John Doyle’s production of Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The resulting recording won McDonald two Grammy Awards, for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album.
On the concert stage, she has premiered music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams and sung with virtually every major American orchestra – including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony – and under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Leonard Slatkin. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas in a season-opening concert that was broadcast live on PBS. Internationally, she is a returning guest at the BBC Proms in London (where she was only the second American in more than 100 years to solo on the famed “Last Night of the Proms” at the Royal Albert Hall) and at the Théatre du Chatelet in Paris, as well as with the London Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic.
McDonald was first introduced to television audiences as a dramatic actress in the Peabody Award-winning CBS program Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. She went on to co-star with Kathy Bates and Victor Garber in the lauded 1999 Disney/ABC television remake of Annie, and in 2000 she had a recurring role on NBC’s hit series Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. After receiving her first Emmy nomination for her performance in the HBO film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Emma Thompson, McDonald returned to network television in 2003 in the political drama Mister Sterling, produced by Emmy Award-winner Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. (The West Wing) and starring Josh Brolin. In early 2006 she joined the cast of the WB’s The Bedford Diaries, and over the next season she had a recurring role on NBC’s television seriesKidnapped. In 2008 she reprised her Tony Award-winning role in A Raisin in the Sun in a made-for-television movie adaption, earning her a second Emmy Award nomination.