The Voice (Stage Thoughts: Audra McDonald Live at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 5/20/18)

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I have seen Audra McDonald in most of her Tony-winning performances but it is always a treat to just see Audra McDonald, the living legend. On Sunday at Los Angeles’ Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, she proved that she has one of the best voices singing anywhere nowadays (Stephen Sondheim said as much and as we all know, he is God)  and I think we can be assured that her recordings have not been ‘sweetened’ because her voice is just as luminous, expressive, and crystal clear live.

Her show mirrors, almost to the song, the repertoire from her latest live album, ‘Sing Happy’ And if, like me, you have been listening to the album since it came out, then the show may sound just a little familiar. But who cares, hearing her sing ‘It’s Lovely Up Here’ is glorious in any way possible. Plus, I think she has a great sparkling personality – funny, touching, down-to-earth that all in all, it doesn’t matter – you will feel like you have reached heaven just by having both of you breath the same air. The great theater repertoire is unmatched, starting with her ‘I Am What I Am,’ from La Cage Aux Folles. In some ways, this song feels more like a personal anthem of me loving theater music, unapologetically. Another particular highlight for me is ‘The Facebook Song,’ which I have not really heard prior to her recording it, and has now become one of my favorite tracks from the album. At Sunday’s performance, it was a highlight. McDonald’s voice may be highbrow, but works just as well screaming the F word. By the end of the concert, as she sings ‘Over The Rainbow,’ I was in a puddle of grateful tears. This is truly one of those days that I felt blessed to be alive, and able to experience the thrill of listening to live music. This show is an afternoon is something I will not soon forget.

Love Begins With One Hello (Film Thoughts: Hello Again)

helllo_1507045388I remember seeing ‘Hello Again’ off-Broadway at Lincoln Center many years ago, and I remember disliking it. Even though I liked the performances (Donna Murphy! John Cameron Mitchell!) I really was put off by Michael John LaChiusa’s score. I have always been a purist when it comes to musical theater – I’m old fashioned, please don’t mind me – and it took me a long while to get adjusted to the ‘modern’ composers whose themes are more discordant, and tuneless.

So maybe it’s that maturity that made me appreciate the score now, more than twenty years later, and actually, it really has grown on me, and I even like it a lot now. Or perhaps it’s the MTV effect. Paired with the great visuals in the film, the music resonated more. The show was inspired by Arthur Shnitzler’s La Ronda, and features vignettes of people engaging in sexual acts, all done elegantly, so there’s nothing smutty here.

s592I loved this movie, and I had reservations. It was perfectly cast with a cast with blazing screen presences, voices that life the score, and sensuality that is needed to essay the score. I cannot think of anyone who is a weak link – everyone was perfect. To my eyes, the male cast was perfection – starting with Gerald Nolan Funk and Al Calderone. And has Cheyenne Jackson ever been sexier on film? I was mesmerized by Tyler Blackburn (Where has he been all my life?) and thought T R Knight was best with his scene from the Titanic.

And of course, Audra McDonald. She sizzles on screen as she does on stage. You cannot take your eyes off her, and when she sings, angels would take notes. I hadn’t known that Rumer Willis (of Demi and Bruce) was good like this good, and Martha Plimpton always delivers.

The vignettes, to me, played like music videos, and probably better suited for this medium. Some of the sexuality seems tempered, but I guess that wasn’t really the point of the film. But to me, the whole was very enjoyable, and when the credits started to roll, I wanted more.