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Tag: Audra McDonald (1-10 of 14)

First listen: Audra McDonald channels Billie Holiday in Broadway's 'Lady Day'

It’s the performance everyone’s been talking about: Six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald set a Tony record with her latest star turn, playing troubled blues singer Billie Holiday in the final months of her life in the Broadway play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.

Set in a seedy bar in the late ’50s, McDonald plays the jazz legend in one of her final performances. It’s a fully transportative experience for the audience, whose reactions help create the illusion carried by McDonald’s performance. To reflect that experience, Lady Day’s new original Broadway cast album was recorded live during performances of the show in late May.

The two-disc set offers an immersive translation of the show, a feat not reflected in several of this season’s recent cast albums. Lady Day’s cast recording (by PS Classics) will be available digitally and in stores on July 15, but Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive first listen to four of the tracks from the show, offering recognizable Holiday songs and a sample of the stories McDonald shares during the performance.

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Broadway box office: Bryan Cranston's 'All the Way' gets the biggest Tony bump

Broadway producers love the Tony Awards because it gives a rare national platform for their shows, typically boosting ticket sales for musicals that make the most of their televised production number. And what lucky show got the biggest boost from the June 8 broadcast? Surprise! It wasn’t a musical but the LBJ bio-drama All the Way, which won Best Play and Best Actor for Bryan Cranston (above). In the post-Tony week ending June 15, box office climbed 30 percent to a Texas-size $1.23 million, according to figures from the Broadway League.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, a play with music that earned Audra McDonald a record sixth Tony, also basked in the awards afterglow. Box office climbed 19 percent last week to $457,174, an impressive 87 percent of the potential gross in the intimate Circle in the Square Theatre. And Best Revival winner A Raisin in the Sun saw a 5 percent bump to $1.29 million — an impressive haul for a non-musical on Broadway. READ FULL STORY

Tony Awards 2014 winners: 'A Gentleman's Guide' and 'All the Way' take top prizes

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A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, an old-fashioned musical comedy and the rare Broadway hit not based on a movie or TV show and with zero Hollywood stars in its cast, claimed Best Musical at the 68th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday. Meanwhile, the LBJ biodrama All the Way won Best Play as well as Best Actor for star Bryan Cranston in his Broadway debut.

Neil Patrick Harris, an Emmy-winning four-time Tony host, earned his first award for his role as an East German transgender punker in the musical revival Hedwig and the Angry Inch (and is halfway to an EGOT). And Audra McDonald picked up a record-breaking sixth Tony playing Billie Holiday in the drama Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, becoming the first performer to win Tonys in all four acting categories.

Tony voters spread the wealth this year, with no one show dominating. A Gentleman’s Guide and Hedwig each took home a total of four awards, while A Raisin in the Sun earned three for revival, director Kenny Leon, and costar Sophie Okenedo. After the jump, a complete list of this year’s winners. READ FULL STORY

'A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder' top winner at 2014 Drama Desk Awards

Call it A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder & Winning Big.

The musical comedy dominated the 59th Annual Drama Desk Awards, taking home a leading seven trophies at the gala held Sunday night at The Town Hall in New York City. Based on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman, the farce was named outstanding musical and received the musical direction award for Darko Tresnjak.

Star Jefferson Mays won for outstanding actor in a musical, an honor he shared with Neil Patrick Harris for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Lauren Worsham was named outstanding featured actress in a musical. Robert L. Freedman was recognized for outstanding book of a musical and outstanding lyrics alongside co-lyricist Steven Lutvak, and Aaron Rhyne won for outstanding production design.

No production came close to topping Gentleman’s Guide‘s awards totals, though Beautiful: The Carole King Musical did win in three categories: outstanding actress in a musical for Jessie Mueller, outstanding featured actress in a musical for Anika Larsen (yes, it was another tie with Worsham), and outstanding sound design in a musical.

Outstanding play went to All the Way, which also earned a best actor win for Bryan Cranston, who plays President Lyndon B. Johnson in the historical drama. READ FULL STORY

Firsts & Worsts: Audra McDonald looks back on bad stage deaths and making out with 80-year-olds -- VIDEO

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Every actor started somewhere — and when it comes to theater performers, their roots are often similar, right down to the roles they cut their teeth on or the songs they first used at an audition.

Entertainment Weekly is launching a brand-new video series called Firsts & Worsts, dedicated to getting the unheard stories behind the beginnings of some of your favorite stage stars. Kicking off this exciting new project is the one and only Audra McDonald, a record-setting five-time Tony Award winner who recently earned her monumental eighth nomination. Lady McDonald is currently delivering one of Broadway’s most exquisite and haunting performances as the late jazz singer Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, a role that McDonald says is, terrifyingly, her first time portraying a real-life legend. READ FULL STORY

Chris O'Dowd, Audra McDonald and more Tony nominees share weird warm-ups, campaign slogans -- VIDEO

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The month of campaigning for the 2014 Tony Awards is well underway, and that’s why you’ll see this year’s crop of nominees—from Bryan Cranston and Chris O’Dowd, to Audra McDonald and Idina Menzel—popping up all over the place as they remind you just why they all deserve to take home Broadway’s top honor this year at the Hugh Jackman-hosted ceremony on June 8.

The day after the nominations were announced, EW sat down with a slew of this year’s nominated performers (some first-timers, some veterans, all excited) to chat about their quirky backstage rituals necessary for warming up for the show. And since this is awards season after all, we also asked them to come up with a campaign tagline that sums up their Tony race.

Check back at EW.com all month long for a deeper dive into this year’s nominees, as well as interviews and analysis from our stage team. Let the Tony race commence! READ FULL STORY

This Week on Stage: Tony nominations aftermath and fun facts!

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The 2014 Tony nominations were announced on Tuesday, and left many elated and just as many puzzled. No Denzel? Or Daniel Radcliffe? And nothing for everyone’s favorite traveling NYC duo? But there were some wonderful surprises (four acting nods for Twelfth Night!) and the lack of frontrunners (minus Neil Patrick Harris, Bryan Cranston, and perhaps this divine gal) will make the Hugh Jackman-hosted ceremony on CBS June 8 full of nail-biters. But here are some fun trivia bits about this year you can chew over until then (many of them compiled by our own Jake Perlman): READ FULL STORY

This Week on Stage: James Franco dishes, Audra McDonald dazzles (again)

Lesson learned this week on Broadway: if he does not like what you wrote about him, James Franco will call you “a little bitch”. Franco, who made his Broadway debut this week in Of Mice and Men opposite Bridesmaids charmer Chris O’Dowd, took on the New York Times’ Ben Brantley on Instagram, making it the 453rd silly thing he’s done this year. (Or is it incredibly shrewd and constant self-promotion? One cannot be sure.) In more benevolent news, a bevy of much-loved stage, film, and TV triple threats returned to their roots, including Audra McDonald (channeling the haunted spirit of Billie Holiday, and amazingly so at that), Tony Shalhoub (a nominee last year for Golden Boy and could be again this year), Annette Bening (owning the stage as early 1900s performer Ruth Draper), and the now-film-retired Steven Soderbergh, making a dent Off-Broadway with a new play by frequent collaborator Scott Z. Burns, starring Carrie‘s Chloë Grace Moretz.

(Click on the links below for full reviews)

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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

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