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.


Angela said...

I love Audra. Incredible performer, and one who seems like a real human being. She's the kind of person I want to be when I grow up. (Hmmm... I'm not a child anymore. Maybe I should rephrase that... The kind of person I want to be by the end of the week.)

Esther said...

Hi Angela! Thanks for the comment. I had the pleasure of meeting Audra McDonald at the stage door after seeing her in "110 in the Shade." She is as sweet and gracious as she is talented. Definitely a real human being! You should listen to her Downstage Center interview.

I'd love to see her on stage again, either in a play or musical or in concert. I definitely want to start exploring some of her other music, and I'm looking forward to seeing her Tony-winning performance in "A Raisin in the Sun" when ABC airs the play in February.