All About Audra

It's quite a feat for any actor to win four Tony awards during his entire career. In a classic case of overachieving, Broadway star Audra McDonald has done exactly that -- winning three of the four before she was 30 years old. (Her fourth came in 2004 for her role as Ruth in A Raisin in the Sun, in which she starred opposite P. Diddy.)

But that's not all. Not content to stay anchored to the boards, McDonald received an Emmy for her role in Emma Thompson's cable drama, Wit. So having conquered two media, what's next? A one-woman show, naturally.

"An Evening with Audra McDonald" is the perfect showcase for this versatile actress and her pitch-perfect soprano. In two short operas, she'll star as two women in two love stories that run the emotional spectrum.

In the first, Send (who are you? I love you), written specifically for McDonald by Michael John LaChiusa, she plays a young, single, professional female who has potentially met Mr. Right through an online dating service. They exchange a flurry of flirty e-mails and, finally, phone numbers. The performance takes you right into this young woman's home -- and head -- as she fantasizes, through song, about the dinner, the kiss, kids, marriage, a near-divorce, old age and even death. "I'm definitely talking it all out, or singing it all out," she says. Of course, she still hasn't met this mystery man -- until he calls.

Preparing for the single-girl role was somewhat challenging for the married mom. "But I certainly remember my single years," she says. "And I have a lot of girlfriends who are going through a lot of that." McDonald even set up an account on one of the big-name dating sites to prep for the role and get into character. (For research only, she swears.) "I have a family friend who met, married and now has a child thanks to," she says, "so I know it can work. I was curious to see how people meet up. Some guys look like a possibility. Then you read other profiles, where they have a foot fetish, and it's 'Um, no.'"

Immediately after Send ends, and after a brief intermission, McDonald again takes audiences into the mind of a young lover in Francis Poulenc's mini opera The Human Voice (La Voix Humaine). Set in the 1950s, the classic story centers around the character Elle as she sits in her bedroom waiting for a final phone call from her lover. Elle runs through all the emotions of a heated lovers' quarrel as she alternately talks with her lover on the telephone and argues with the telephone operator.

The two shows would seem to be a rollercoaster ride of emotion, as Send celebrates the joy of a new relationship, and Voice chronicles the end of one. "By the time I'm done with Send," says McDonald, "I'm exhausted." But it's a fair challenge for a woman who has a new TV show -- The Bedford Diaries -- on the way and has racked up awards and mounds of respect while starring opposite actors like Ethan Hawke and P.Diddy. "Diddy was tireless," she says of her Raisin co-star. "We'd be ready to leave rehearsal, and he'd say 'Let's do this one more time.' I was like, 'It's time to go home, honey!'"
March 7-24, 8 p.m.


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