Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis, Megan Hilty & Cheyenne Jackson Join ‘Seth Concert Series’

Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis join Seth Rudetsky for virtual solo concert events
L-R Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis

Award-winning stars of the stage and screen Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis, Megan Hilty, and Cheyenne Jackson will join the line-up of talent slated to participate in The Seth Concert Series, the weekly virtual series based on Seth Rudetsky’s international Broadway series that began at The Art House in Provincetown.

Each weekly show will premiere Sunday nights at 8PM EST with a second showing Mondays at 3PM EST for viewers in other time zones like the UK. Tickets are available at BroadwayWorld Events for $20.00 (early bird) and $25.00 each.

Hosted by musical director and Sirius XM host Seth Rudetsky, the first virtual event took place on Sunday, May 31 and featured Tony Award-winning actress Kelli O’Hara.

The series has since featured intimate conversations and incredible musical moments with Jeremy Jordan, Jessie Mueller, Lea Salonga, and Melissa Errico.

Audra McDonald will be Seth’s guest this Sunday, July 12; Norm Lewis will appear on July 19, followed by Megan Hilty on July 26, and Cheyenne Jackson on August 2.

‘Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration’ Was A Musical Gift That Kept Giving

L-R Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep (screen capture)

It began with some tech problems, but when Broadway.com’s salute to legendary composer Stephen Sondheim – Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration – finally got underway it was truly a gift for musical theatre fans.

So many fantastic performances of Sondheim’s lengthy and rich catalog.

One of the highlights was easily Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald serving up a spectacular “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company as a kind of  Zoom cocktail hour. Donning white robes and pouring generous drinks, the approach was not only hilarious but solved the problem of trying to live up to Elaine Stritch’s legendary performance of the song.

In case you missed it, I’ve cued up Christine, Meryl and Audra’s brilliant performance below, but you can view the entire 2+ hour livestream below.

Other highlights include:

• Melissa Errico’s “Children and Art” (Sunday in the Park with George) was the picture of understated perfection at the 41:04 mark

• Mandy Patinkin, standing outside alone amid an enormous, empty grassy field, shared a moving a cappella “Lesson #8” (Sunday in the Park with George) at the 54:21 mark

• Laura Benanti – “I Remember” (Evening Primrose) at 1:08:28 mark

• Chip Zien, the original “Baker” (Into the Woods) was heartbreaking as he reprised his song “No More” at 1:14:06

• The event’s host, Raúl Esparza, sang a beautiful take on the event’s title song, “Take Me to the World” (Evening Primrose) at 1:50:59

• Donna Murphy’s poignant, pensive rendition of “Send in the Clowns” (A Little Night Music) at the 1:53:55 mark

• Bernadette Peters closing out the event with a gorgeous, a cappella take on a song she didn’t sing in Into The Woods, “No One Is Alone” at 2:11:18

Bernadette Peters (screen capture)

In truth, there are tons of terrific performances – I’m sure I’ll have missed mentioning something I loved. If you click here, you’ll find the full show with a complete breakdown of shortcuts to each individual performance.

Stay with it to the end as there’s a much fun postscript to the shindig with the song “Broadway Baby” from Follies.

The event served as a fundraiser for ASTEP – Artists Striving to End Poverty. You can donate at this link.

Watch Broadway Stars Perform LIVE From Home Today

Don’t forget to hit the play button below at 7pm ET/4pm PT today for the return of The Rosie O’Donnell Show LIVE! as she hosts a star-studded array of Broadway’s finest performing from their homes.

The event will serve as a fund-raiser for The Actor’s Fund,  which fosters stability and resiliency, and provides a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan.

According to Broadway.com, the special program will feature performances and appearances by some of the biggest names in entertainment, all participating live from the comfort of their own homes, including Sebastian Arcelus, Skylar Astin, Beth Behrs, Nate Berkus, Stephanie J. Block, Matthew Broderick, Tituss Burgess, Norbert Leo Butz, Kristin Chenoweth, Gavin Creel, Darren Criss, Gloria Estefan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Harvey Fierstein, David Foster, Morgan Freeman, Neil Patrick Harris, Megan Hilty, Lorin Latarro, Judith Light, Barry Manilow, Rob McClure, Audra McDonald, Katharine McPhee, Alan Menken, Idina Menzel, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lauren Patten, Ben Platt, Billy Porter, Randy Rainbow, Andrew Rannells, Chita Rivera, Seth Rudetsky, Miranda Sings, Jordin Sparks, Ben Vereen, Adrienne Warren, James Wesley and more.

‘The Rosie O’Donnell Show’ Returns For One-Night-Only Streaming Event

Rosie O’Donnell is bringing her talk-show back for a one-night-only special fundraiser to benefit The Actors Fund to help the theater community during the ongoing coronavirus threat. All Broadway theaters are currently dark with April 13 set as the target date for curtains to rise again.

The all-star event will be streamed live on March 22 on Broadway.com and YouTube.

Daytime fans will recall The Rosie O’Donnell Show was THE afternoon talk show during its six-year run from 1996 to 2002. Along the way, the gabfest scored numerous Emmy Awards, including five Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show and six for O’Donnell as Outstanding Talk Show Host.

An avid fan of musical theater, O’Donnell used her platform to showcase dozens of performances from Broadway productions on the show.

“Everybody who knows me knows that Broadway has been one of the brightest lights in my life since the time I was a little girl,” said O’Donnell in a statement. “It has also been the lifeblood of New York City for generation after generation. After all Broadway has given to the world, now — in this time of tremendous need — it’s our turn to give something back.”

“There is no better way to support this community than via The Actors Fund,” she added. “And, with a line-up like this, I dare you not to tune in.”

Actor Eric Bergen (Broadway’s Jersey Boys, CBS’ Madame Secretary), who is co-producing the Broadway-palooza with O’Donnell, foreshadowed the event on his Instagram featuring The Rosie O’Donnell Show logo: “Everyone could use a little Rosie in their lives right now don’t ‘cha think?”

Bergen followed that up with this message: “I told my friend @rosie that I had an idea. I thought the world needed The Rosie O’Donnell Show back…even for just a night. I’m so thrilled she said yes and that I get to produce this event. Join us Sunday night on @broadwaycom and on YouTube as we raise money for @theactorsfund with the biggest names on Broadway!”

PEOPLE reports the star-studded event will feature performances and appearances from celebrated actors and entertainers including Sarah Jessica Parker, Darren Criss, Gloria Estefan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Harvey Fierstein, David Foster, Morgan Freeman, Neil Patrick Harris, Megan Hilty, Judith Light, Barry Manilow, Rob McClure, Audra McDonald, Katharine McPhee, Alan Menken, Idina Menzel, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Lauren Patten, Ben Platt, Billy Porter, Randy Rainbow, Andrew Rannells, Chita Rivera, Seth Rudetsky, Miranda Sings, Jordin Sparks, Ben Vereen, Adrienne Warren, James Wesley, Sebastian Arcelus, Skylar Astin, Beth Behrs, Erich Bergen, Nate Berkus, Stephanie J. Block, Matthew Broderick, Tituss Burgess, Norbert Leo Butz, Kristin Chenoweth, Gavin Creel, Lea Salonga, Idina Menzel, and more.

And yes, they’ll all appear from the comfort and safety of their own homes!

John McDaniel, The Rosie O’Donnell Show‘s original music director and producer, is also slated to return.

The big show will stream live on Sunday, March 22 at 7 p.m. ET on Broadway.com and its YouTube channel.

To make a tax-deductible donation to The Actors Fund, visit here.

 

Throwback Thursday: ‘The Lloyd-Webber Trio’

Audra McDonald, Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn (screen capture)
Audra McDonald, Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn (screen capture)
Audra McDonald, Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn (screen capture)

I’m been meaning to post this for a Throwback Thursday post for months, but the Thursdays roll by and…well, I used to be blond.

In any case, many times I get to the end of the day and I don’t want to pay attention to an hour-long story on TV.

So, I fire up the YouTube app on my Apple TV and chill watching videos I’ve ‘favorited’ in the past.

This performance is easily one of my ‘go-to’ videos.

Recorded live at the My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies concert on September 28, 1998, at Carnegie Hall, this trio of world-class Broadway actresses come together beautifully in a mashup of three Andrew Lloyd Webber love songs.

Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, and Tony Award nominees Marin Mazzie (who we lost last year to a long cancer battle) & Judy Kuhn, separately perform “Love Changes Everything,” “Unexpected Song” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” respectively, to stunning effect,

Go ahead and hit play first, then I’ll share a few things.

Awesome, right?

Now, I wanted to explain why this lands with me so well.

First, what I hear: all three singers have terrific musicianship.

When I listen to this, I hear voices singing to the ends of the phrases. They never kind of ‘peter out.’ They sing – with energy – to the ends of the phrases and cut off with purpose.

Sometimes you’ll hear singers be a bit lazy and hold a note too long. The problem can be the note they hold might clash with the chord structure of the next phrase.

Second, notice how all three actresses stay focused on the stories they’re telling.

Look at their eyes – even when not singing, they never leave the narrative they’re in. Even when they all move downstage at the 5:52 mark, they don’t glance at the other two singers. They are IN it.

And finally, huge props to the arranger (I believe it was David Loud?) who wove these songs into such a gorgeous tapestry. Bonus points for making sure the ladies’ lyrics for backup phrases all still make sense in each of their stories. No one ever sings a word that doesn’t logically fit into their ‘scene.’

The entire concert is well worth watching (the DVD is available on Amazon). The production features a veritable whos-who of Broadway leading ladies including the aforementioned as well as Bebe Neuwirth, Karen Ziemba, Andrea McArdle, Linda Eder, Jennifer Holiday, Priscilla Lopez, Nell Carter, Dorothy Loudon, Rebecca Luker, and Elaine Stritch.

Shuffle Along To Close On Broadway July 24

Producer Scott Rudin has announced his Broadway show Shuffle Along will close on July 24th despite receiving rave reviews.

Strangely, Rudin seems to put the onus of closing on leading lady, six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald. McDonald recently announced that she is pregnant and would be leaving the production soon.

However, she was already scheduled to depart the show to appear in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill in London. So, I’m not sure what the difference is between her leaving for a pregnancy or for a previously scheduled commitment in London.

In addition, Shuffle Along has two other Tony Award winners, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter. Plus, Tony Award winner Savion Glover was set to join the cast. So there’s no lack of star power on the stage.

See the announcement below via BroadwayWorld:

Producer Scott Rudin has just announced that SHUFFLE ALONG will play its final Broadway performance on Sunday, July 24, 2016. As was previously announced Audra McDonald, the six-time Tony winning star was already set to depart the production on July 24 for what was planned as a multi-month maternity leave. The news comes after reports of both Rhiannon Giddens having been cast and starting rehearsals as her replacement, and after news of choreographer Savion Glover being slated to join the show as well.

“Audra McDonald is the biggest star on Broadway, and audiences have been clamoring to see her in this role since the first preview of Shuffle Along in March of this year,” said Scott Rudin in a statement to the press. “She is absolutely extraordinary in the show, and I am filled with gratitude for both her exemplary partnership on Shuffle Along and also for her remarkable resilience and fortitude in doing everything possible to play as many shows as she can, despite the circumstance of her pregnancy.

We are thrilled that she and her husband, Will Swenson, are experiencing the opportunity to expand their family – and we wish them all good things as they approach the birth of their child this fall. It has, however, become clear that the need for Audra to take a prolonged and unexpected hiatus from the show has determined the unfortunate inevitability of our running at a loss for significantly longer than the show can responsibly absorb, and we have decided to close the show when she leaves on July 24. On behalf of myself and George C. Wolfe, I want to say how deeply grateful we are to her for everything she gave and continues to give the show. There is simply nobody like her.”

SHUFFLE ALONG began performances on March 15, 2016 and officially opened, to rave reviews, on April 28. It went on to win the New York Drama Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards for Best Musical, along with the Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Choreography (Savion Glover), Outstanding Costume Design (Ann Roth), and Outstanding Wig and Hair Design (Mia M. Neal). It was nominated for ten 2016 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It will have played 38 previews and 100 regular performances by the time it ends its run.

Trailer: Ricki And The Flash Starring Meryl Streep

Ricki And The Flash – starring Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald, Kevin Kline and Rick Springfield.

I think that covers just about every demo you could want, amiright?

Meryl Streep takes on a whole new gig – a hard-rocking singer/guitarist – for Oscar®-winning director Jonathan Demme and Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody in Ricki and the Flash.

In an original and electrifying film loaded with live musical performances, Streep stars as Ricki Rendazzo, a guitar heroine who made a world of mistakes as she followed her dreams of rock-and-roll stardom. Returning home, Ricki gets a shot at redemption and a chance to make things right as she faces the music with her family. Streep stars opposite her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer; Rick Springfield, portraying a Flash member in love with Ricki; Kevin Kline as Ricki’s ex-husband; and Audra McDonald as Kline’s new wife.

Hits theaters August 7.

Audra McDonald Tweets Indiana Governor Over Anti-Gay “Religious Freedom” Law

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed sweeping anti-gay “religious freedom” legislation into law today.

And with concerts coming up in the Hoosier state, six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald took to Twitter to school the conservative governor over the anti-gay law.

This made my night…

Audra McDonald Will Return To Broadway In “Shuffle Along”

Next spring, six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald will return to Broadway to star in Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.

Produced by Scott Rudin, the piece tells the backstory of Shuffle Along, the 1921 musical comedy by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles with music and lyrics by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle.

Arriving on Broadway seemingly doomed to fail, the work bucked the odds to become a runaway success that helped to launch the careers of Lottie Gee — who will be portrayed on Broadway by Audra, Josephine Baker, and Paul Robeson, among others.

Opening on April 21, 2016 at the Music Box Theater, Shuffle Along is a collaboration between Audra, George C. Wolfe, and Savion Glover, with music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Daryl Waters.

Audra won her sixth Tony Award for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill last season. The performance has been filmed by HBO with an air date yet to be announced.

(via Audra McDonald official website)