Croton's Audra McDonald seeks fifth Tony Award
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Audra McDonald is one of the most recognized actresses in recent Tony Award history. The Croton resident has won four awards for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and has received seven nominations in the past 18 years. Yet despite her many nods, one award still eludes her: McDonald has not yet won a Tony for Best Leading Actress.Thanks to her critically lauded turn in “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” the award might finally be hers.
McDonald, who said that she is “very grateful, excited and honored” by her Tony nod, is more excited by all the accolades for the show, which earned 10 nominations.
“The company has a poured so much heart and soul, and blood sweat and tears, into the production,” McDonald said. “To have it be recognized by the committee is humbling. We don’t do it for the awards, but it is nice to be recognized.”
In “Porgy and Bess,” McDonald portrays Bess, a troubled, drug-addicted woman living in Catfish Row, a fictional neighborhood in 1920s South Carolina. The character is drawn to the wrong men but longs for a life of decency, represented by her romance with Porgy (played by Tony nominee Norm Lewis). The musical, which notably features an all-black cast, produced one of Gershwin’s most iconic songs, “Summertime.”
McDonald, who has resided in Croton for 11 years, is just one of several Tony nominees with Hudson Valley connections, including composer Alan Menken (a New Rochelle native and Northern Westchester resident), and actors Kelli O’Hara (a Northern Westchester resident), Danny Burstein (a Mount Kisco native) and James Earl Jones (a Pawling resident). In the category for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, she will face off against fellow Westchester resident O’Hara ("Nice Work If You Can Get It”), Jan Maxwell ("Follies"), Cristin Milioti ("Once") and Laura Osnes ("Bonnie & Clyde”).
So far, McDonald has swept the other major theater awards for “Porgy and Bess,” winning Best Leading Actress from the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League. Her past Tony wins have been for Best Featured Actress in two musical revivals, 1994’s “Carousel” and 1998’s “Ragtime,” and two plays, 1995’s “Master Class” and 2004’s “Raisin in the Sun.”
McDonald returned to Broadway to star in George and Ira Gerswhin’s famed opera after concluding a four-year run on the TV show “Private Practice.” Although the actress raised her profile by starring on a hit prime-time show, returning to her Broadway roots meant having an immediate connection with her audience, as evidenced by her June 2 tweet.
“Dear lady in the 2nd row who looks just like my Nana & sang every note of 'Summertime' w/me 2day...u r loud & adorable, just like my Nana was.”
The 2012 Tony Awards will be broadcast live from New York City’s Beacon Theatre on June 10. A win for McDonald would come at an auspicious time in her career — this year marks the 20th anniversary of her Broadway debut.