When Audra McDonald performs, her vast show business experience is evident in every facial expression, and every note she sings.
Backed by an instrumental trio, the singer and actress sang show tunes and more, and told stories with humor and dramatic flair Saturday night at her sold-out concert at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park.
To introduce the 1922 ballad "My Buddy," she recalled when she once heard it performed, high notes and all, by an aged male street performer.
As an epilogue to the song "Baltimore," a musical warning about men from Maryland from her newest CD, "Go Back Home," McDonald told about the parody version written by her 9-year-old niece, a Harry Potter fan, titled "Voldemort."
A capacity crowd of 1,400 welcomed McDonald warmly to the Green Music Center's Weill Hall on the Sonoma State University campus, prompting her to say, "I am thrilled to be here. Even though this is not my hometown of Fresno, this feels like home because it's my home state."
Indeed, fans came from all over Northern California to see McDonald, from Sacramento to San Francisco.
"She's so versatile," said Sue Rosser, who divides her time between Sonoma and San Francisco. "I first knew of her as an actress. Then when I heard her sing, I was astounded. She's fabulous, and beautiful."
A two-time Grammy winner, recently named musician of the year by the Musical America Journal, McDonald has found success as both an actress and a singer. She also has carved out an outstanding Broadway career, winning five Tony Awards.
So naturally, her show Saturday included show tunes, a Stephen Sondheim song from "Into the Woods," and Irving Berlin's "Moonshine Lullaby" from "Annie Get Your Gun."
McDonald is well-known known to a vast TV audience as a regular for four years on the series "Private Practice" and in recurring roles on "Law and Order" and "Kidnapped." She also appeared in NBC's live broadcast of "The Sound of Music" last month.
Some of her fans gathered at receptions in the music center complex before and after the show, both part of the "A Night OUT at Weill Hall" package, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender mixer in honor of McDonald, an outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage.
Dan O'Donnell came from Sacramento to see McDonald's show with his partner and their 6-year-old son -#8212; all three of them dressed in sharp-looking black suits.
"We saw her last summer on a cruise to Bermuda," O'Donnell said. "She was the headliner. Since we had this chance to see her again, we took it."
(You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)