Audra McDonald returns with new, personal CD

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Singer-Acress Audra McDonald’s new CD,” Go Back Home” includes classics like Stephen Sondheim’s “The Glamorous Life,” the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Edelweiss,” and “First You Dream,” from the John Kander and Fred Ebb show “Steel Pier.” (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, file)
 
by Mark Kennedy
AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — If either her husband or daughter is calling, Audra McDonald knows without looking at her phone.

That’s because the five-time Tony Award winner has programed the ring tone for both to be The Carpenters’ hit version of “(They Long to Be) Close to You.”

“It’s cute, right?” the 42-year-old actress-singer asks.

It is indeed.

For more revealing things about McDonald look no further than her new CD and televised concert. Both pull back the curtain on one of the most decorated women on Broadway.

The 12-song disc called “Go Back Home” includes classics like Stephen Sondheim’s “The Glamorous Life,” Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Edelweiss” and “First You Dream,” from the John Kander and Fred Ebb show “Steel Pier.”

It also highlights younger composers such as Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler (“Baltimore”), Adam Gwon (“I’ll Be Here”) and two songs by Michael John LaChiusa (“Virtue” and “Married Love”).

The CD’s title — taken from the stunning Kander and Ebb song from “The Scottsboro Boys” musical — is a hint that this is McDonald’s most personal album to date.

Since her last record — “Build a Bridge” in 2006 — McDonald lost her father in a plane crash, divorced and remarried, spent four seasons on TV’s “Private Practice” and won her fifth Tony Award for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”

All those events have influenced her choice of songs. “If you were to write a musical about my life over the past seven years, this would be the soundtrack,” she says.

The song “First You Dream” makes her think of her 12-year-old daughter Zoe, “Edelweiss” of her late father and “Make Someone Happy” of her husband, fellow performer Will Swenson. The CD ends on that optimistic note. “That’s what I’ve come to and where I am now,” she says.

McDonald, who is host of “Live From Lincoln Center,” has a line of concert dates until Christmas, has shot a pilot for CBS with Hope Davis and Sam Neill, and has three theater projects percolating. On Friday, her “Audra McDonald in Concert: Go Back Home” concert special airs on PBS.

The Associated Press recently sat down with the singer and longtime activist for marriage equality to find out about the new album — out Tuesday — and why she won’t be listening to it.

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