Six time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald came to the Filene Center at Wolf Trap this past Monday and with her strong soprano intact, delivered a superb concert consisting of almost all show tunes by writers both old and new.
Backed by the mighty National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Andy Einhorn, McDonald started things off with “When Did I Fall in Love” from Fiorello featuring Eric Stern’s arrangement and a stunning orchestration by Larry Hochman. From there it was time for a combo of Rodgers and Hammerstein paired with Lerner and Lane as McDonald sang “It Might as Well be Spring” from State Fair and “Hurry it’s Lovely Up Here” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever with orchestrations by Bruce Pomahac and Robert Russell Bennett respectively. Representing the newer generation of writers, McDonald then performed “Stars and the Moon” from Songs for a New World with an arrangement by Brown and Eric Stern.
…an absolutely unforgettable night of music.
The thing about McDonald is that she could be up on stage singing the phone book and it would sound like Mozart. A case in point of this was two selections from an opera lieder called Craigslistlieder, which was composed by Gabriel Kahane and arranged by Andy Einhorn. It is exactly what you think it is. Kahane took listings from Craigslist and set them to music. It’s an interesting idea for a piece of music but it seems to me that a little of that could go a long way for the listener so hearing McDonald deliver just a sampling of Kahane’s work was just right.
One of my favorites from the evening was Stephen Sondheim’s “The Glamorous Life” from A Little Night Music featuring Jonathan Tunick’s soaring orchestration. It’s one of Sondheim’s songs that isn’t performed as often so hearing McDonald sing it made it that much more special.
There were two instances where certain musicians had a chance to be featured. The first was “He Plays the Violin” by Sherman Edwards from 1776 and it featured the concertmaster for the evening Ricardo Cyncynates as the soloist on Eddie Sauter’s original orchestration.
The second featured McDonald’s trio of musicians that travel with her all over. On Frank Loesser’s “I Can’t Stop Talking about Him” from Let’s Dance, Don Sebesky’s orchestration calls for three ukuleles. Pianist Brian Hertz, Bassist Mark Vanderpoel and Drummer Gene Lewin rose to the challenge of doubling on the ukes besides singing backup vocals. I imagine that constitutes a double.
With the recent events in Charleston, SC and the racial tension that is still in this country, McDonald performed the haunting “Go Back Home” from Kander and Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys. With Bruce Coughlin and Larry Hochman’s orchestration in tow, you could hear a pin drop.
As an encore McDonald with Einhorn at the piano sent us out with “Over the Rainbow,” which is an anthem for gay rights in this country. Considering McDonald is a big advocate for this, it was the perfect way to end things.
How do you sum up a concert by Audra McDonald? There are so many superlatives you could use. Things like Wow!! and OMG!! come to mind. When backed by the NSO it becomes an absolutely unforgettable night of music.
Running Time: Two Hours and ten minutes with one intermission.
Audra McDonald was a one night only event on June 22nd 2015 at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap which is located at 1551 Trap Road in Vienna, VA .
For upcoming events at Wolf Trap click here.