Congratulations are in order for Audra McDonald who made history during last night’s Tony Awards celebration, becoming the first black woman to claim 5 Tony Award wins; last night’s pickup for Best Leading Actress In A Musical (for Porgy & Bess), also tied the record held by Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris.
I should note that she’s just 41 years old, and, according to IBDB.com (the Internet Broadway Database), she’s appeared in just 10 Broadway shows, starting in 1991 through the pressent. Talk about talent and recognition; 10 Broadway shows, and she won Tony Awards for her performances in half of them. To help put this into some perspective, imagine a Hollywood actress making 10 movies over a 20 year period, and winning Academy Awards (whether supporting or lead) for her performances in 5 of them.
You’d think that maybe all that talent and success would transfer to TV and/or film, but it hasn’t quite done so. Her last big screen role was a minor, thankless part in last year’s Rampart. On TV, she was on the Shonda Rhimes-created ABC medical drama Private Practice from 2007 to 2011 (although from what I hear, she was under-utilized), before leaving to head back to Broadway to star in Porgy & Bess.
She also appeared in some TV movies – Wit in 2001, and A Raisin In The Sun in 2008; she received Emmy nominations for her performances in both TV movies – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie; so almost everything she’s touched, whether on screen or on stage, has been critically recognized, and you’d think that she’d be appearing in far more work than she is currently, especially in what we’d call leading lady roles, both on TV and in film.
I think of Viola Davis being in a similar position; black woman actress, routinely critically lauded for her performances (stage, TV and film), and still relatively under-used – until very recently anyway (part of that being due to her own proactive efforts in forming a producton company, and packaging projects for herself).
But I suppose that’s a song one could also sing for a few other lesser-known actresses.
However, with last night’s historic win – a win that will hopefully help raise even further awareness of her and her abilities – I’d expect to see Audra get more looks for TV and film projects. Glancing over her IMDBPro page, she has absolutely nothing listed in the “Projects in development” category; however, I should note that the musical’s run, which was originally scheduled to end on July 8, was extended to September 30 – an almost 3-month extension, which suggests that it must be doing really well for them to have that much confidence that it’ll continue through the fall.
So Audra will be tied up on Broadway for about 4 more months, as it was confirmed that she would stay on with the show through the end of its extension! What comes after that for her is still a mystery; but I’d say that she deserves much more than a forgettable bit part as one of Woody Harrelson’s one-night-stands in Rampart.
I should also note that Aretha Franklin reportedly has set her sights on Audra to star in her biopic; although, Aretha has had her sites on a number of other actresses to play her in a film about her life. And would Audra even want to do it if offered?
One could argue that there just isn’t as much of a mainstream awareness of her (despite how well-known she is on the theatre circuit), which might be a hinderance. But with what we could call the “broadening of Broadway” in recent years, as Broadway producers welcome Hollywood actors with open arms (reviving, adapting, or “blackening” familiar, existing shows), in order to reach beyond typical theatre audiences, and boost ticket sales, lauded stage actresses like Audra McDonald might be introduced to audiences who weren’t already fully aware of her and her talents.
And that new awareness could translate into more, plumper offers in both TV and film – assuming of course that she wants those oppotunities; and I’ll say that she most certainly does. She’s an actress, and I’m sure she’d like to work (on hopefully great projects), and do so consistently. And let’s face it, “black shows” on Broadway (or shows with roles for black actors – specifically leading roles) aren’t exactly plentiful. So it’s only logical that an actress of Audra’s caliber would definitely keep all her options open. Plus she’s done some TV and film anyway, suggesting that she most certainly is interested in working outside of the theater circuit.
I should also note that she routinely performs in concerts throughout the US primarily (shes also an opera/classical music singer, with two Grammy Awards and four albums), so earning an income likely isn’t a problem for her. But… let’s see what happens in the next few months with regards to her acting career.
Being the multi-talent-threat that she is, I’d obviously love to get an interview with her, especially after last night’s win. And I’ll make an effort to do so. But if anyone reading this can assist in making that happen, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In addition to Audra’s win, other wins of note include: the Raisin In The Sun-inspired Clybourne Park (which Wendell Pierce is a producer on; I saw it and reviewed the play HERE) winning the Tony for Best Play, and Porgy & Bess winning the Tony for Best Revival Of A Musical (it won 2 awards).
Audra’s win makes her only the 7th black woman to win a Tony Award in the category she won for last night – Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical. The last time was when LaChanze won the award for her performance in The Color Purple, in 2006.
Watch her emotional Porgy & Bess acceptance speech below: