A great night out with S. and her mom. First, vodka tonic and sesame crusted big eye tuna at Blue Fin, which is a real gem of a place amid the hubbub of Times Square. Then, fifth row to see Audra McDonald in 110 in the Shade on Broadway. One might be tempted to call her a diva because of her great reputation as a singer, but she really immerses herself in this role and proves once again how wonderful of an actor she is. The performance and the singing meld wonderfully, and I never got the sense of her forcing things. Even the signature number, "Simple Little Things," comes across like it's all occuring to her just then in the moment. It's that kind of nightly magic that makes for a truly great performer. It's interesting to compare Roundabout's earlier musical this season, The Apple Tree, starring another diva, Kristin Chenoweth. While I enjoyed parts of that piece, I can't say I ever really forgot that Kristin with a big fat K was there on stage performing for us. Perhaps it was the nature of the piece: three vingettes with a common theme. But either way, Audra's turn as simple spinster Lizzie comes across as much more naturalistic. Yes, there are moments in the show -- some of the ensemble work -- when you can't help but realize you're watching a revival of a '60s musical, but there's enough fresh and vital stuff there to captivate. We laughed, we cried, we loved it. Kudos also to the basic but elegant set done by Woody Allen fave and theater legend Santo Loquasto, which is dominated by a big flat screen disc that hangs down over the stage, representing the blazing sun at first, then turning all mood ring on us as the play progresses. The one bit of irony is how cold it was in Studio 54 during the first act -- brrr. Still, I have to give Audra most of the credit for those occasional outbreaks of the goosebumps. Opening night is May 9.
UPDATE: I had to go finish up some work after the show and missed a chance to meet Audra!
UPDATE 2: Designer and UWS'er Santo Loquasto is featured in a weekend Times piece.