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Audra McDonald in concert review at Leicester Square Theatre, London – ‘eclectic, unmissable’

Audra McDonald. Photo: Autumn de Wilde Audra McDonald. Photo: Autumn de Wilde
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The winner of six Tony Awards (the most by a single performer in Broadway history), Audra McDonald wears her accomplishments lightly. Ahead of bringing Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill to the West End this June, she is briefly in residence at Leicester Square Theatre in a revue that is part talk show, part intimate concert. It’s an evening of relaxed spontaneity and informality, hosted by Seth Rudetsky, who also accompanies her on piano.

The pair riff like old friends – they are direct contemporaries, and he accompanied her when she was still at Julliard, where she trained as a classical opera singer, not a Broadway belter. There’s a spirit of trust and intimacy between them, on which we are privileged to eavesdrop.

We hear about her 16-year-old daughter Zoe, who is backstage tending to recent surprise arrival Sally James – and also get to meet (and hear) her husband, Will Swenson, as they duet on a spellbinding version of Neil Diamond’s You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.

But it is McDonald, and her thrilling, shimmering, operatic soprano we really want to hear, and we are not short-changed. She draws from an eclectic programme, ranging from shows she has performed (a devastating Summertime, from Porgy and Bess, and a searing reprise of Climb Ev’ry Mountain that she sang in the 2013 live NBC telecast version of The Sound of Music) to shows she is yet to do (such as Maybe This Time, from Cabaret). She also generously includes newer songs – Adam Gwon’s heartbreaking I’ll Be Here (from Ordinary Days) and Jason Robert Brown’s Stars and the Moon – that are like self-contained musicals in themselves.

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Verdict
An unmissable encounter with a Broadway superstar, and likely to be entirely different at every show
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