The Tony Awards can sometimes be frustrating–like this year when Nicole Ari Parker and Blair Underwood’s stellar performances were overlooked during the nomination process. But I couldn’t help but be interested because Audra McDonald was up for her work in the revival of Gershwins’ “Porgy & Bess”. Although in recent years, McDonald has made a name for herself on the small screen with “Private Practice”, it is on the stage that this sister has shown the diversity and depth of her talent. And the best part of all is it hasn’t gone unrecognized.
I sort of remember that she was in “Carousel” and “Ragtime” which were big ensemble productions, it was watching a bit of her performance from “Master Class” on the Tony Awards that made me say ‘this woman is awesome!” I think I like her because she can has a real range and she gets roles that allow her to showcase it. And when she doesn’t, she creates a place of her own. While I’ve never had the opportunity to see her in concert, it is definitely something I want to experience because her voice is nothing short of fabulous.
She brought all of her fabulousness to the Gershwin opera, no small feat. This is not one of those musicals that has a theme song that gets sung at every refrain–think Andrew Lloyd Webber. “Porgy and Bess” is an opera and McDonald has to convey so much through her voice and she does so with strength, vulnerability and passion. In his review in the The New York Times back in January Ben Brantley called her “great” and suggested that she might win an award for this role:
It seems safe to predict that Ms. McDonald, a four-time Tony winner, will be in contention for all the prizes on offer this season. She should be. You don’t need the scar that brands her cheek to tell this Bess is damaged goods (and all too aware of that status) and a woman who has always lived in defiance of the pain she is in. That’s evident in her very posture, a mix of coiled defensiveness and thrusting exhibitionism, from the moment she sets foot onstage.
And when she sings — ah, it’s a God-touched voice that turns suffering and ugliness into beauty. No wonder the people of Catfish Row don’t think she belongs among them. This Bess has the breath of divinity in a world that feels entirely too mundane to keep her.
It’s a shame that more of us can’t see McDonald’s work in all of its splendor. Now many of you probably saw her in the revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” because Diddy made sure it was taped for television. Sidenote: isn’t it ironic or should I say weird that “Clybourne Park” which is based upon the aftermath of “A Raisin in the Sun” won last night too? Okay, back to the subject at hand…tI don’t understand why a network like PBS doesn’t jump on “Porgy & Bess” for “Great Performances”. We need to see that a Black woman can move a crowd and command respect without shaking her groove thing. Audra McDonald is Broadway royalty and we should recognize this Queen too.Read Also