Thursday, October 4, 2007
From stage to screen - and back
Last night I watched "Private Practice," the spinoff of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." I've never seen "Grey's Anatomy." I'm not terribly interested in medical shows. And it turns out that this one is pretty forgettable. But Audra McDonald is in it, and that's a big attraction for me.
I saw the four-time Tony winner on Broadway in July in "110 in the Shade." Wow. What an incredible, rich, operatic voice. (Ok, I've never actually been to an opera, but her voice is what I imagine an opera singer's would sound like).
Plus, she's just a great actress. She's a beautiful, confident woman who makes us believe through sheer force of her acting skills that she's awkward, unattractive and insecure. I'd never seen her in anything before, and she totally won me over. Unfortunately, I don't think your average TV-show dialogue really demonstrates the full extent of her talent.
Audra McDonald isn't the only theater veteran I've watched on television this week. I'm at the beginning of a "Sex and the City" marathon, and it was a wonderful surprise to see Marian Seldes playing Mr. Big's mother.
I've seen a few movie and television actors on stage so far. The ever-growing list includes Kevin Spacey, Colm Meaney, David Hyde Pierce and Angela Lansbury. Next month, I'll add Kevin Kline in "Cyrano" to the roster. (Jennifer Garner's in it, too, but I never watched "Alias.")
I have to admit that for me, that's one of the thrills of going to a Broadway show. I enjoy watching an actor whose work I've admired on television or in the movies perform on stage. Now, I'm realizing it works the other way around as well - I enjoy watching an actor I've liked on stage perform on TV or in a movie.
To hear a terrific interview with Audra McDonald, check out this Downstage Center program from 2005. In it, she discusses getting her start at a dinner theater in Fresno, Calif., when she was 16, playing Eva Peron in "Evita," and the relief she felt at finally not winning a Tony Award.