Audra McDonald brings songs and stories to Hancher

Broadway star Audra McDonald brought music, comedy, and heart to Iowa City’s Hancher Auditorium through her extensive repertoire.


Allison Michael Orenstein

Audra McDonald Portraits. CREDIT: Allison Michael Orenstein

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

Hancher Auditorium was packed with people on Sept. 14, all eagerly awaiting the arrival of musical powerhouse Audra McDonald. When she made her entrance, the audience cheered for so long that McDonald jokingly made a move to wave and exit the stage before returning to the mic to begin her first song of the night.

With six Tonys, two Grammys, and an Emmy already on her shelf at home, it came as no surprise to learn that McDonald has been a performer since she was a child. Her extensive training showed in the effortless grace infused into each song she sang, some of which are the most vocally challenging songs in Broadway history. Her program included selections from “Porgy and Bess” and the classical musical, “My Fair Lady.”

There is nothing that could be said about McDonald’s seemingly endless lung capacity, incredible articulation, and gorgeous voice that hasn’t already been said time and time again in other writings, but there are some non-musical parts of her show that made it unique, as well.

McDonald happens to be extremely charming and funny, which made the moments in between songs just as enjoyable as the pieces themselves. McDonald shared several humorous stories from her own life, including the fact that both of her daughters hated the sound of her singing as toddlers.

“Mommy, your singing makes my ears cry,” McDonald’s eldest daughter once told her, a bit that caused the auditorium to roar with laughter.

McDonald also shared pieces of Broadway trivia with the audience, sometimes baiting them with the incorrect answer for her own amusement.

Despite occasionally using it as a source of comedy, McDonald shared that she truly does have a deep love for Broadway history. She told the audience that when she picks songs for her set, she tries to choose ones that most people do not know.

Some of her song choices were unknown to most audience members due to their age, but others came from lesser known producers and lyricists that McDonald said she believed deserved more attention. For example, McDonald sang a song called “The Facebook Song (Are You F**king Kidding Me?),” by Kate Miller-Heidke.

The song itself is hilarious, but McDonald used it as a platform to talk about how more female songwriters deserve to be in the spotlight. McDonald using her fame and show to promote lesser known artists truly speaks to her character, and made the show feel more special than just a concert — albeit, an extremely impressive concert.

McDonald’s show is called “An Evening With Audra McDonald,” which is the perfect description. It is more than just a concert. McDonald made sure her audience got to know the real her in addition to hearing her sing, which made for a night impossible to forget.

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