Los Angeles Music and Dance Preview: AUDRA MCDONALD & ABT & LA Phil (Hollywood Bowl)

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by Tony Frankel on August 29, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles


The last time I saw the captivating singer and actress Audra McDonald in concert, she sang the Bernstein/Comden/Green tune “I’m a Little Bit in Love” from Wonderful Town: “Mm–mmm! / It’s so nice to be alive / When you find someone Audra-McDonald-photo-by-Michael-Wilson-199x300who bewitches you.” And when you see her upcoming concert at the Hollywood Bowl this week, you will not only find her utterly bewitching, you will no doubt find yourself a little bit in love.

I had the privilege of seeing Ms. McDonald’s Tony-winning performances in CarouselMaster Class and Ragtime, but it was her turn as Clara in Passion at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival that proved McDonald is, as Stephen Sondheim maintains, “one of the glories of the American theater.” Not only is she a refined singer with a golden voice of purity and control, but she makes every song a story unto its own. Stage and Cinema’s review of her performance in Porgy and Bess states: “McDonald exudes a warmth and humanity that is only matched by her tremendous vocal power and terrific acting chops.” Last season, McDonald won her sixth Tony Award, besting Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris for most wins by an actress.

For her set with the LA Phil, conducted by that raconteur extraordinaire Bramwell Tovey, McDonald will offer mostly showtunes (“It Might As Well Be Spring,” “Make Someone Happy”), but you can also expect a luscious rendition of Mancini’s “Moon River.”


A fitting tribute to Leonard Bernstein’s birthday week arrives via the overture to West Side Story, which opens the program. The second half ensures the evening will end on a high note when 12 cream-of-the-crop American Ballet Theatre dancers (including Marcelo Gomes and Gillian Murphy) bring to life the evergreen courtship romp Fancy Free, composed by a very young Bernstein in 1944 (and ultimately inspiring his first triumph On The Town).

American-Ballet-Theatre-FANCY FREE-poster

Jerome Robbins’ utterly delightful, contagiously jazzy, 70 years-young confection depicts three young and horny sailors on shore leave on a hot night in a side street of the Big Apple. Looking for female companionship, the boys show off shamelessly and skillfully in testosterone-filled courtship displays that all but marinate in the dreamy longing of Bernstein’s supple score. Each gets a characteristically different show-off solo, displaying their athleticism, sensuality, eagerness to please, and acrobatic adoration. But, fueled by booze, their obstreperous hijinks scare off the dames. When a blonde bombshell finally appears, they revert to form, running off with the patented abandon that makes this one of the happiest half hours in the story of steps.

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Fancy Free photo by Rosalie O’Connor
Ms. McDonald photo by Michael Wilson

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Bramwell Tovey, conductor
Audra McDonald, soprano
American Ballet Theatre
Hollywood Bowl
Tuesday & Thursday, September  1 & 3, 2015 at 8:00
for tickets, visit www.hollywoodbowl.com

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