Performance Saturday, October 22, 2011 | 8 PM

Audra McDonald

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Winner of four Tony Awards, Broadway legend Audra McDonald returns to the concert stage after four seasons on the hit ABC television series Private Practice. Joined by an orchestra, the two-time Grammy Award winner performs an unforgettable evening of favorite show tunes, classic songs from the movies, and original pieces written expressly for this extraordinary artist who is at the height of her expressive powers. “Ravishing of voice and Olympian of stature, she’s an overwhelming presence” (The New York Times).


  • Audra McDonald, Vocalist
  • Ted Sperling, Conductor


  • Audra McDonald

    Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry as both a singer and an actress. With four Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and a long list of other accolades to her name, she is among today's most highly regarded performers. Blessed with a luminous soprano and an incomparable gift for dramatic truth-telling, she is equally at home on Broadway and opera stages as in roles on film and television. In addition to her theatrical work, she maintains a major career as a concert and recording artist, regularly appearing on the great stages of the world.

    In the summer of 2011, after four seasons playing Dr. Naomi Bennett on ABC's hit television series Private Practice, Ms. McDonald turned her attention back to live performances, making her role debut as the title character in a new musical adaptation of Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In December, the production transfers to the Richard Rodgers Theatre, marking Ms. McDonald's first Broadway appearance since 2007, when she received a Drama Desk Award and a Tony nomination for her performance in 110 in the Shade. Between the runs in Cambridge and New York City of Porgy and Bess, Ms. McDonald embarks on a 20-city concert tour across North America, presenting her trademark mix of show tunes, classic songs from movies, and pieces written expressly for her by leading contemporary composers.

    Born into a musical family, Ms. McDonald grew up in Fresno, California, and received her classical vocal training at The Juilliard School. One year after graduating, she won her first Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel at Lincoln Center Theater, directed by Nicholas Hytner. She received two additional Tony Awards in the Featured Actress category over the next four years for her performances in the Broadway premieres of Terrence McNally's play Master Class (1996) and his musical Ragtime (1998), earning her an unprecedented three Tony Awards before turning 30. In 2004, she won her fourth Tony, starring with Sean "Diddy" Combs in A Raisin in the Sun. Her other theater credits include The Secret Garden (1993), Marie Christine (1999), Henry IV (2004), 110 in the Shade (2007), and, most recently, her Public Theater / Shakespeare in the Park debut in Twelfth Night alongside Anne Hathaway and Raúl Esparza (2009).

    Ms. McDonald made her opera debut in 2006 at Houston Grand Opera, which featured her in a double-bill of Poulenc's monodrama La voix humaine and the world premiere of Send, a companion-piece written by one of her frequent collaborators, composer Michael John LaChiusa. She made her Los Angeles Opera debut in 2007 starring with Patti LuPone in John Doyle's production of Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The resulting recording won Ms. McDonald two Grammy Awards, one for Best Opera Recording and the other for Best Classical Album.

    On the concert stage, Ms. McDonald has premiered music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams and sung with virtually every major American orchestra. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas in a season-opening concert that was broadcast live on PBS. Internationally, she is a returning guest at the BBC Proms in London (where she was only the second American in more than 100 years to solo on the famed Last Night of the Proms at Royal Albert Hall) and at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, as well as with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic.

    As an exclusive Nonesuch recording artist, Ms. McDonald has released four solo albums on the label, interpreting songs from the classic to the contemporary. Her first Nonesuch album, 1998's Way Back to Paradise, was named Adult Record of the Year by The New York Times. Following the best-selling How Glory Goes in 2000 and Happy Songs in 2002, she released the 2006 album Build a Bridge, which saw the singer stretch her repertoire to include songs by the likes of Randy Newman, Elvis Costello / Burt Bacharach, Rufus Wainwright, and Nellie McKay. Her ensemble recordings include the acclaimed EMI version of Bernstein's Wonderful Town conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, the New York Philharmonic release of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, and Dreamgirls in Concert, as well as the first recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Allegro. Ms. McDonald is also featured on the Broadway cast albums of Carousel, Ragtime, Marie Christine, and 110 in the Shade.

    In addition to her professional obligations, Audra McDonald is an ardent proponent of marriage equality and sits on the advisory board of the advocacy organization Broadway Impact. Of all her many roles, however, her favorite is that of mother to her daughter, Zoe Madeline.

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  • Ted Sperling

    One of today's leading theater artists, Ted Sperling is a conductor, music director, arranger, singer, pianist, and violinist. He was music director and conductor of the first Broadway revival of South Pacific, which won seven Tony Awards in 2008 and played to sold-out Lincoln Center Theater houses since its opening. In 2005, Mr. Sperling won the Tony and Drama Desk awards (with Adam Guettel and Bruce Coughlin) for his orchestrations of The Light in the Piazza, for which he was also music director.

    Mr. Sperling has an active conducting career, performing with Audra McDonald, Victoria Clark, Patti LuPone, Kelli O'Hara, Paulo Szot, and Deborah Voigt. He has conducted performances regularly with the New York Philharmonic as well as a concert presentation of Ricky Gordon's opera, The Grapes of Wrath, at Carnegie Hall.

    Mr. Sperling was music director and conductor of the 2009 Tony Award-nominated revival of Guys and Dolls. Other Broadway credits as music director-conductor-pianist include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Angels in America, My Favorite Year, Falsettos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Les Misérables, Roza, and Sunday in the Park with George. Mr. Sperling was an original cast member of the Broadway musical Titanic. Off-Broadway credits as music director include A Man of No Importance, Wise Guys, A New Brain, Saturn Returns, Floyd Collins, Falsettoland, and Romance in Hard Times.

    Mr. Sperling's work as a stage director includes the world premieres of four musicals: See What I Wanna See, V-Day, Charlotte: Life? Or Theater?, and Striking 12, as well as a revival of Lady in the Dark. He has conducted the scores for the films The Manchurian Candidate and Everything Is Illuminated, and directed the short film, Love Mom.

    Mr. Sperling was a recipient of the 2006 Ted Shen Family Foundation Award for leadership in the musical theater and is director of the Music Theater Initiative at the Public Theater, as well as creative director of the 24-Hour Musicals.

    Andy Einhorn

    In demand as music director, conductor, pianist, orchestrator, arranger, and vocal coach, Andy Einhorn boasts Broadway credits for Brief Encounter, The Light in the Piazza, and Sondheim on Sondheim, which won a Grammy nod for Best Original Broadway Cast Recording. He is also recognized for his frequent collaborations with many of the musical theater world's biggest stars, including Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara Cook, Ana Gasteyer, and Audra McDonald.

    As resident music director on the Sweeney Todd national tour, Mr. Einhorn received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award nomination for Outstanding Music Direction. He worked on the first national tour of The Light in the Piazza; other tour credits include South Pacific, White Christmas, Mamma Mia!, and The Lion King.

    Off-Broadway, Mr. Einhorn worked on Adam Gwon's Ordinary Days, while international work includes the European premiere of The Light in the Piazza. He was music director of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for Paper Mill Playhouse and the world-premiere production of Henry Krieger's new musical, Radio Girl, at the Goodspeed Opera House. He recently orchestrated Gwon's The Boy Detective Fails at Signature Theatre and She Loves Me for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He was principal vocal coach and pianist for Houston Grand Opera's An Evening with Audra McDonald, a double-bill of Poulenc's La voix humaine, and Michael John LaChiusa's Send.

    Equally at home in the concert hall, Mr. Einhorn has served as music director and pianist for Ms. McDonald. He made his own Carnegie Hall debut earlier this year with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic in the Hall's 120th Anniversary Gala, televised on PBS's Great Performances. He has also music directed for Barbara Cook at venues that include Feinstein's at Loews Regency and Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music. DRG Records released an album of his recent collaboration with Ted Chapin, Stage Door Canteen, previously seen at the 92nd Street Y.

    An honors graduate of Rice University, Andy Einhorn is a native of Houston, Texas. He currently resides in New York City.

    Mark Vanderpoel

    Mark Vanderpoel is a native of San Diego and a former member of the San Diego Symphony, in addition to various orchestras and chamber groups in the Baja California area of Mexico. He attended the University of California-San Diego, where he studied with Bertram Turetzky. After UCSD, Mr. Vanderpoel attended the University of Southern California and later received a master's degree from the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with Charlie Hayden and Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz.

    Now living in New York City, Mr. Vanderpoel works extensively on and off Broadway. His credits include Jane Eyre, Amour, See What I Wanna See, Legally Blonde, and Guys and Dolls. In the summer of 2010, he had the privilege of performing for President Obama and assembled dignitaries in A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House, which was later televised nationally on PBS. Mr. Vanderpoel has also performed with such popular artists as James Taylor, Cyndi Lauper, Nancy Sinatra, and Clay Aiken.

    Gene Lewin

    Gene Lewin appears on 33 CDs, with several more soon to be released. He drums, sings, and composes for GrooveLily, a trio that has been together for 15 years and has toured throughout North America. While they have morphed through many different musical scenes (and hairstyles), they are now focused on creating hybrid musical theater-performances that feel both like concert and story.

    Mr. Lewin is also active in New York City's jazz scene, performing and recording with many well-respected singers and instrumentalists. He has appeared on CDs with bassists John Patitucci and Scott Colley, guitarists Ben Monder and Steve Cardenas, tenor saxophonist George Coleman, bassist-vocalist Jay Leonhart, and many others.

    Originally an engineering major at Princeton University, Mr. Lewin soon changed paths and returned to school to receive a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 1991. He sends love to his wife Suzanne and sons Elias and Jacob.

    Kevin Kuhn

    Originally from Philadelphia, Kevin Kuhn has lived in New York City for 25 years and is currently guitarist for Disney's The Lion King on Broadway. As a composer, he has been on the staff at Score Productions, Big Wave Music, and Shelly Palmer Productions, which produced three seasons of music for the television series Spin City with Michael J. Fox.

    Mr. Kuhn has performed with Audra McDonald, Sarah Brightman, Rita Coolidge, LeAnn Rimes and Elton John, Quincy Jones, Ashford and Simpson, British Rock Symphony with Peter Frampton, and Liza Minnelli, among others. Stage credits include The Who's Tommy and Chess by ABBA. He has performed extensively at Lincoln Center, including appearances at the Metropolitan Opera, and with the New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet, and New York City Opera. Film and television credits include Gangs of New York, Birdy, Prime, The Nanny Diaries, The Other Side of Time, and The Producers.

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"Wonderful You"
Audra McDonald

In the Artist's Own Words

Toward the end of Porgy and Bess, Sportin’ Life sings to Bess about leaving Charleston for New York: “That’s where you belong, sister!” He may or may not be right with respect to Bess, but I can definitely tell you, I’ve been hearing those words eight times a week and I know the man is right: New York is where I belong.

After racking up three-quarters of a million frequent flyer miles commuting back-and-forth to LA every week for the past four years, I’m glad to be home, in all senses of the word. I’ve returned to my house, my family, my friends, and my dog. But I’ve also returned to singing, where I left a big piece of my heart when I was doing television. And finally, tonight, I’m home in front of a New York audience again.

As the old commercial goes, I’m not a doctor, but I played one on TV. It was nice to have the perks of running a practice alongside the likes of Tim Daly and Taye Diggs, without the stress of going to medical school or taking patients’ lives in my hands. But all that time, I really missed singing my songs, practicing the chemistry of music and words. The thought-cloud of a lyric, perfumed by music—a song is unique in its ability to convey emotion and meaning in a way that is abstract and yet, simultaneously, incredibly human.

It’s impossible for me to express in a few short words how happy I am to be “home” at Carnegie Hall, to share with you some songs I love in the best way I know how.

—Audra McDonald

The Trustees of Carnegie Hall gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Mrs. Judith Chasanoff in support of the 2011-2012 season.