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Audra McDonald in 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill': Watch a sneak peek -- EXCLUSIVE

Apparently, the redoubtable Audra McDonald needs to break that Tony-winning record. With five wins under her belt (the last was for her shattering take on the drug-snorting, tortured female lead of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), she could net a sixth for the Broadway premiere of longtime regional staple Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, in which she will embody none other than “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless the Child” songstress Billie Holiday, in what would become a Tony milestone as she currently ties Angela Lansbury and the late Julie Harris for the most competitive wins by an actress. (Additionally, if the production is considered a play versus a musical — à la the recent Broadway production of the Judy Garland-flavored End of the Rainbow — McDonald would be the first actor to win all four possible female acting categories at the Tonys.)

Directed by Lonny Price (who directed McDonald to a Tony nom in 2007’s 110 in the Shade) and written by Lanie Robertson, the setting of Lady Day is a seedy bar in 1959 Philadelphia, where Ms. Holiday gives a legendary performance just four months before her tragic death of cirrhosis at age 44. In the teaser below, listen as McDonald and company expound on the exciting prospect of inhabiting one of the most indelible female jazz artists of the 20th century.

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This Week on Stage: Kelli O'Hara builds some 'Bridges,' 'Bronx Bombers' is outta there

Bronx Bombers has just announced a closing date of March 2, proving yet again that sports fans and Broadway do not make good bedfellows. There’s already a whisper in the air that the soon-to-be-vacant Circle in the Square might see Audra McDonald in a production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill a staple of regional theaters about Billie Holiday (not to be confused with last fall’s Off Broadway show Lady Day). That would complicate the Tony race for  Best Actress in a Musical, which is already shaping up as a showdown between Sutton Foster (Violet), Idina Menzel (If/Then), Jessie Mueller (Beautiful), Michelle Williams (Cabaret), and the leading lady of the week, Kelli O’Hara, who just debuted to bright notices for her lovelorn Iowa housewife in the musical version of The Bridges of Madison County. Let the diva bloodbath begin! Bridges was reviewed by EW this week as well as three other new productions (click on the links below for the full reviews): READ FULL STORY

Celeb justice league, including Kevin Bacon & Meryl Streep, unite for reproductive rights PSA

Will we ever get tired of watching PSAs stuffed with brief appearances by multiple celebrities? It’s not likely, as long as they’re as entertaining as this new ad from the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The clip promotes their Draw The Line campaign, which urges American to sign the “Bill of Reproductive Rights” — and it stars celebs like Kevin Bacon, Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Silverman, and Audra McDonald furiously responding to remarks made by Georgia State Rep. Terry England while an imitation Mission Impossible theme plays. If you’ve ever yearned to hear Martha Plimpton exclaim “forced vaginal WHAT?” in outrage, this is the PSA for you. Watch it here:

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'Peter and the Starcatcher' gets box office bump even before Tony wins

peter-and-the-starcatcher-review

Even before Christian Borle picked up his Featured Actor Tony for Peter and the Starcatcher Sunday night, the Peter Pan prequel was winning over Broadway audiences. The play had its best week ever, earning $541,177 for the week ending June 10, according to figures from the Broadway League. That’s a healthy 27-percent jump from the previous week — certainly nothing for Borle’s Black Stache to snigger at. (In addition to Borle’s acting prize, the show earned three other Tonys in technical categories.) Overall, Broadway box office was up nearly $1.9 million last week — an impressive achievement considering that the $1 million-grossing drama Death of a Salesman had closed on June 2.

Given the promotional platform of last night’s all-time-lowest-rated Tony telecast, we should expect a box office windfall in coming weeks for the evening’s big victors, particularly eight-fold musical winner Once. (Last week, the movie-based musical played to nearly full houses and grossed $845,343, 85 percent of its potential gross. Look for both ticket prices and profitability to climb quickly.) Musicals like The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Newsies, and Nice Work If You Can Get It boasted both multiple Tony wins and solid production numbers that translated well to the small screen. Even musicals like Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Ghost that came up empty-handed in the Tony derby may see a modest uptick in advance sales thanks to their televised numbers.

Some of the Tony broadcast’s production numbers may have a more cautionary effect. I suspect that virtually no Tony viewers were swayed to buy tickets to the long-flailing revival of Godspell — or to book a Royal Caribbean cruise to see that shaky non-Equity production of Hairspray. Indeed, Godspell posted its worst box office returns ever last week, down 7 percent to $156,437. Prepare ye the way of a closing notice. And last season’s musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which will have its last performance June 24, was down 6 percent to $487,923 — the second worst full week in the production’s 15-month run.

As for straight plays, Tony winners such as Clybourne Park and One Man, Two Guvnors now have fresh promotional fodder to lure audiences. The acting prizes arrive too late to help two long-running new plays, Other Desert Cities and Venus in Fur, which are due to close this Sunday. And without Tonys to tout, some other new non-musical plays may struggle to hang on through the end of summer. The Blair Underwood-led revival of A Streetcar Named Desire was flat compared to the previous week, grossing $299,235, and The Lyons took in a mere $239,983 — in both cases, that was less than 30 percent of their potential gross.

Read more:
Tonys: 10 moments we loved
Tony Awards 2012: Broadway Style!
Tony Awards: Check out the full list of winners here!
EW’s Stage hub

Tony Awards 2012: We're live-blogging them!

Will Porgy and Bess star Audra McDonald win her fifth Tony Award and Death of a Salesman director Mike Nichols accept his ninth? Will Smash star Christian Borle upset Amazing Spider-Man‘s Andrew Garfield in the featured actor in a play category? And which movie-based stage musical — Once or Newsies — will take Broadway’s top prize? More importantly, will host Neil Patrick Harris persuade special Tony winner Hugh Jackman to join him for another song-and-dance duel as spectacular as the one they performed last year? Join Laura Hertzfeld and me this Sunday for EW.com’s annual live blog of the Tonys, beginning at 8 p.m. EST. We’ll have reports from EW’s stage gurus Marc Snetiker and Melissa Rose Bernardo on the red carpet, in the press room, and around the auditorium of the Beacon Theatre. READ FULL STORY

Tony Awards 2012: We predict the winners

Now is the time for Newsies fans and theater geeks everywhere to seize the day! It’s Tony time! This Sunday, Neil Patrick Harris will be donning his tux once again to host the annual celebration of Broadway’s finest moments (and we’ll be live-blogging the Tony Award ceremony, so please watch with us!). In a repeat from last year’s NPH-led event, expect another rash of jokes at the expense of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Fellow EW critic Melissa Rose Bernardo and I here offer our predictions in all the Tony categories (you’ll see our names after each of our picks). Disagree? Please let us know who you think will win — or should win — in the comments section. (For more Stage coverage, go to EW.com’s Stage hub.)

Best Play
Clybourne Park (Thom)
Other Desert Cities
(Melissa)
Peter and the Starcatcher
Venus in Fur

It’s one of the strongest years in recent memory for new American plays. While Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities won wide acclaim when it opened last year, I give the edge to Pulitzer winner Clybourne Park.

Best Musical
Leap of Faith
Newsies
(Melissa, Thom)
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Once

This is a two-way race between movie-based hits that each have an underdog story: Once and Newsies. The former is charming but relatively small-scale. And since a sizable number of Tony voters handle Broadway tours throughout the country, a more traditional, broader-based hit like Newsies is likely to win out. READ FULL STORY

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