Audra returns home to the Saroyan in a commanding performance

CONCERT REVIEW

Editor’s note: Because I’m out of the country, I asked a friend and veteran journalist to review Audra’s show for me. Thanks, Doug!

By Doug Hoagland

Can you be a show business legend at only 47?

If you’re Audra McDonald, you can – and she is.

McDonald thrilled a sold-out audience at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre on May 26 with a soaring voice and an easy presence that made her both stunning and accessible.

audra mike
Audra McDonald on Saturday gave esteemed Fresno City College music professor Mike Dana a shout-out from the Saroyan stage.

For 90 minutes, with no breaks, McDonald performed classic and new numbers from the songbook of American musicals with the Fresno Philharmonic. She was alternately poignant, funny, self-deprecating, dramatic and commanding – always commanding.

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Welcome home, Audra

Along with other Fresno-area fans of Broadway star Audra McDonald, I let her know how I feel

Audra’s home. This time it’s going to be extra special.

The Broadway star (and winner of more Tony awards than anyone) today (Saturday, May 26) will get a key to the city and a street named after her. How cool is that? To top things off, she will sing for the first time with the Fresno Philharmonic in one of the highlight cultural events of the year.

audra street

(For those who haven’t figured out by now, I’m talking about none other than Good Company Players and Roosevelt High alum Audra McDonald, known with a first-name simplicity as “Audra” to this blog and a large number of fans throughout the area.)

To mark the occasion, I wanted to do something special, too, as a welcome.

The result is “Dear Audra.” I asked my readers to write brief recollections and appreciation letters.


Stage door

Dear Audra,

I’m completely an Audra girl. I’ve seen you live three times (“Lady Day,” “Shuffle Along,” and your Modesto show) and I’ve been lucky enough to meet you when my mom and I stage-doored “Lady Day” in 2014.

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Audra McDonald to join Fresno Philharmonic for Memorial Day weekend concert

A hometown concert by Audra McDonald is rare — and always big news.

The Fresno Philharmonic will get that opportunity on May 26, when the Fresno-raised McDonald — who has won more Tony awards than any performer — will stop at the Saroyan Theatre on a West Coast swing of her concert tour.

Autumn de Wilde 2
Audra McDonald will perform with her hometown orchestra on May 26. Photo / ©Autumn de Wilde

Andy Einhorn, a longtime musical collaborator of McDonald’s, will conduct.

Tickets for the general public will go on sale Dec. 18 and may be purchased at www.fresnophil.org or by calling 559-261-0600. Fresno Philharmonic subscribers and donors have the opportunity to purchase tickets from Dec. 8-17. Ticket prices range from $35-$95.

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Reel Pride says ‘Hello’ to Audra

Fresno’s annual gay and lesbian film festival opens Wednesday with an indie film starring Audra McDonald

MOVIE REVIEW

My introduction to Michael John LaChiusa’s off-Broadway musical “Hello Again” was through Fresno’s Audra McDonald, who in 1998 included a song from the show on her first album, “Way Back to Paradise.” McDonald has always made it a point to salute and promote the work of talented young Broadway composers. I have always trusted her judgment, and for good reason: She knows a good song when she hears it.

hello again
The Mistress and the Senator: Audra McDonald, left, and Martha Plimpton in “Hello Again.” Photo / Fresno Reel Pride

The song, titled “The Mistress of the Senator,” is distinctive, one of those numbers packed with specificity and an intricate plot, and as I followed the narrative — it’s about a confident woman having an affair with an influential lawmaker and the skill set she can bring to his political career — I would wonder about how it fit into the show for which it was written. It isn’t the kind of title that gets many community, collegiate, touring or regional productions, so I’ve never actually seen it on stage.

The best thing about the film version of “Hello Again,” which took nearly 25 years to hit the big screen, is that it is a chance to see the story for people like me: fans of smaller, more esoteric, non-mainstream musicals. I much appreciate the opportunity. And the 2017 film, which has not yet been released in regular theaters but is making a circuit of film festivals, is a very nice way to open the 28th annual Reel Pride LGBTQ+ Film Festival, considering the Audra hometown connection. This is not the kind of film that usually makes it to the neighborhood multiplex.

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