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Audra McDonald Brings The American Songbook To San Diego

Audra McDonald in an undated photo.
Allison Michael Orenstein
Audra McDonald in an undated photo.
Audra McDonald Brings The American Songbook To San Diego
Audra McDonald Brings The American Songbook To San Diego GUEST: Audra McDonald, singer

>>> Audra McDonald is a celebrated performer and brought Ray history. That is only a part of what she does. Her soprano voice is equally at home or an opera house or cabaret. She is an actress, TV star, recording artist, she has one Grammys, the Emmy, the national medal of arts, and a TONY. Six of them. Or than any other performer and more than each of the four acting categories. The San Diego sympathy -- Symphony presents an evening with Audrey McDonald tonight, it is an honor. Welcome, Audrey. Your San Diego concert is part of your national concert tour this year. Is there a team that scoping for the shore -- tore something that ties the shows together for you? >> Not necessarily. Usually, when I TORCON my tour in two different ways, to her with my Treo and I tour and work with different orchestras in different cities. A lot of the music is based on what I have orchestrated for an orchestra or a Treo. In terms of the theme, the main theme is always music from the great America music songbook. That could be anything from songs written way back from Rogers and Hammerstein and before that to songs written by new young musical theater composers. As recently as a couple of years ago. And everything in between. That is the main theme. As long as we are dealing with the Great American songbook. >>> You said you never leave home without the song somewhere over the rainbow or make somebody happy from the show do re mi. >> Make just one someone happy. >>> What is so special to you about those songs ? >> I like the messages of both of those songs. Make someone happy. That has been a mantra for me. Away I am trying to live my life now. Not that I necessarily did not before. I was not trying to make people unhappy before. I realize in this day and age it is important to spread goodwill and love. And joy wherever you can. That song is important to me. The same thing with somewhere over the rainbow which deals with hopes and dreams and aspiring and in managing -- imagining you can achieve those dreams and finding a way to be the better person you can be. As well is just being University -- universally loved great songs. That's why I still sing them everywhere. >>> A recent review of this tour says you quote pulled a high C out of your throat like a magician revealing an infinity of handcart chips. -- Handkerchiefs. I'm wondering if you have a over just -- over-the-top description of your voice? >> I don't like to read reviews. The description of my voice I think in my world is most accurate is I come from a family of musicians, a family of incredible singers to the point where my voice is kind of one of the smaller voices in comparison to the rest of the singers in my family. My voice was always the I was the overdramatic child and everyone thought my voice was cute and sweet. Compared to some of the other voices in my family it was not that big. >>> That is the review that you take from it? >> Yes. The one I'm used to. >>> Nice. A cute little voice. You talk about the struggle you had finding her operatic sound while turning a Juilliard. But did not seem to be connecting. You are know now as someone who can easily go back and forth between opera and musical theater. >> I think it was the genre. I grew up wanting to be on Broadway and being a musical theater singer. I was enamored with singers like Barbara Streisand, Julie Garland, Barbara Cook, Lena Horne, Diane Carol. Leslie Adams, people like that. When I went to Juilliard, they were saying you have an operatic voice, you have to aspire to sound like Leanne King price, and people like that I like their singing I just did not want to give myself over to that sound because I did not think it was an appropriate musical theater sound. It was a struggle for me to let my voice go to this place that I did not think was the right sound for musical theater. What I have learned is going in that direction helped me find all of that which was my sound. Not operatic, not musical theater, but Audra. >>> I may Junior Tony awards, this year's Tony nominations are out. There is a lot of Hollywood on Broadway this year. SpongeBob SquarePants, mean girls, Harry Potter. You think this is peak commercialism on Broadway? >> Not necessarily. I don't think so. You go through cycles. A couple of years ago we had Hamilton. And the show I was doing at the time was nominated. There were shows deeply rooted in whatever the subject matter was and deeply rooted in musical theater in terms of their origin. I would not call it commercialism. I don't think I would go there. they are still drawing on the medium that is musical theater to tell the stories. You have to give way to things being told in a theatrical way that you would not necessarily do as far as film or television is concerned. I would not go that far. Being that I have been in the business for a couple of decades now, it is cyclical. You cannot compare one season to the next. >>> Do you get time to listen to music for enjoyment? >> Yes. We have music playing in our house all the time. >>> What draws your ear? >> Here's the thing, my husband and I, when we have control of what we want to listen to, we are oldies. We will have James Taylor, Roberta Flack, Earth wind and fire, Stevie wonder. Lately, because we have a 19 month old now whose name is Sally, we recently made a playlist of every song we could think of that has the word Sally and it. Mustang Sally, laydown Sally, all these great things from all over all genres. It is eclectic. But we don't listen to a lot of is musical theater and I think it's because what we do for living . >> a Audrey McDonald performance with the San Diego Symphony tonight at comp Lee Symphony Hall. Take you so much, Audrey. >> Thank you, take care.

Audra McDonald is one of the most celebrated performers in Broadway history. She has earned six Tony Awards, more than any other performer. So theater fans should be in for a treat Thursday night as McDonald performs with members of the San Diego Symphony.

"The main theme for all of it is always music from the 'Great American Musical Theater Songbook,'" she said. "But that can be anything from songs written way, way, way, way, way back, Rogers and Hammerstein and every before that, to songs by new, young musical theater composers."

McDonald is known now as someone as comfortable in an opera house as she is in a cabaret. But she struggled when her teachers at the prestigious New York performing arts school Juilliard tried to push her from concentrating on musical theater to opera.

"It was a struggle to let my voice go to this place that I didn’t think was the right sound for musical theater," she said. "What I’ve since learned is that going in that direction help me find all of that which is my sound: not operatic, not musical theater, but Audra sound."

McDonald joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more on her stop in San Diego.