The eclectic artistry of Audra McDonald

  • The versatile Audra McDonald has won acclaim as a recording artist and on stage, in films and on TV, with five Tony Awards and two Grammys among her honors. (JUSTIN STEPHENS)

By age 9, Audra McDonald was singing dinner theater in Fresno. By 17, she was improvising her audition for the Juilliard School in New York. By 22, she took Broadway by storm, winning her first of five Tony awards for her role in “Carousel.” And by now, she's doing pretty much whatever she wants — whether it be stage, television, film or musical recording.

If you flipped on the television during the holidays, you probably saw the 43-year-old soprano in “The Sound of Music Live!” on NBC or in the “Christmas at Rockefeller Center” celebration on NBC or in the new “Six by Sondheim” documentary on HBO.

When the New York Times called her “the foremost musical theater performer of her generation,” it was an understatement.

McDonald, who never pursued formal acting training, has been a fixture on the television show “Private Practice” and in recurring roles in “Law and Order” and “Kidnapped.”

Her latest CD, “Go Back Home,” spotlights interpretations of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein classics and more contemporary songs by Michael John LaChiusa and Adam Guettel.

Before McDonald makes her Green Music Center debut Saturday night, here are the Top 5 things you should know about her:

1. McDonald's Green Center show is being featured as part of the LGBT mixer, “A Night OUT at Weill Hall.” The package includes pre-show party, post-show dessert and drinks and plenty of photo ops. McDonald has been an outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage, with active roles in Broadway Impact, Freedom to Marry and NOH8 campaigns. She's also a big supporter of animal adoption and the nonprofit Eleventh Hour Rescue, which saves dogs from being euthanized.

2. McDonald was recently named musician of the year by the Musical America journal. It's yet another accolade in the long list of awards she's won over the years. Her five Tony awards place her in the rarefied circle of most wins for acting or performance roles along with Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris. She's won two Grammys for best opera recording and best classical album, also receiving Emmy nominations for roles in “Wit” and “A Raisin in the Sun.”

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