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May 19, 2017 10:22 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Interview: Audra McDonald, Winner Of Most Tonys Ever, Performs In Westhampton Beach On May 27

Audra McDonald. AUTUMN DE WILDE
May 22, 2017 1:20 PM

Broadway legend Audra McDonald has had a busy year, to say the least.

The record-breaking, six-time Tony award winning singer and actress has been touring the country and the U.K. since January, all while promoting her latest film role in Disney’s musical blockbuster “Beauty and the Beast.” As her final stop, the soaring soprano will grace the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 27.

Speaking from her latest tour stop in Los Angeles, Ms. McDonald said her concert is a compilation of some of her favorite musical theater songs from Stephen Sondheim to Rodgers and Hammerstein to George Gershwin, dating back to 1929 through as recently as three years ago.

While the Juilliard graduate has a deep appreciation for the classics, she said she is extremely excited about up-and-comers like Dave Malloy, the composer of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” which was recently honored with 12 Tony Award nominations. She also mentioned her admiration for other “young guns” like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Adam Kwon, and Pasek and Paul—composers and lyricists for the Academy Award Best Picture nominee “La La Land” and the new Broadway sensation “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“There’s great talent out there,” she said.

While Ms. McDonald remains exceptionally dedicated to her craft, she also finds time to devote to her family. And on this tour the songstress is joined by someone remarkably special in her life: her 6-month-old daughter, Sally James.

“It’s a blessing, it’s exciting, it’s exhausting—especially being older,” Ms. McDonald, 46, said of motherhood. “I’m so grateful for her. It’s fun, even if it means no more sleep.”

After the tour concludes, Ms. McDonald’s distinguished career continues at full speed with her induction into the Performing Arts Hall of Fame at Lincoln Center on June 6 and with London performances of her Tony winning portrayal of Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” from June to September, which marks her West End debut.

“I’ve performed in London a lot and I’ve shot two films there, but this will be the first time I will have appeared on the West End stage. I’m very excited about that,” Ms. McDonald said.

No matter where her career takes her next, Ms. McDonald—who maintains an active presence on Twitter, @AudraEqualityMc—said she will continue to be an advocate for the arts, and the public funding of them, in this country.

“Our government needs to continue to support the arts because [they] keep us connected to our humanity,” she said. “That seems to be so important right now in these precarious times where it seems we’ve lost a bit of touch with that. I believe it is necessary to support [them] in every way, or form that we can.”

And to those out there—particularly young people—looking to pursue a career in the arts, she shared, “Listen to your inner voice … continue to be inspired by other artists, but don’t try to be them. Be yourself.”

Audra McDonald performs Saturday, May 27, at 8 p.m. at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. Tickets are $100, $145 and $175. Visit whbpac.org or call 631-288-1500.

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