I’m a huge Gershwin fan (the team of Ira and George). I mean who doesn’t love Rhapsody in Blue, right? Other favorites include An American in Paris, I Got Rhythm and the Cuban Overture. But my absolute favorite has to be the opera Porgy and Bess. I don’t remember when I first heard it but I’ve heard several variations of it, especially, perhaps the most popular of song from the opera, Summertime. The most memorable and most loved (for me at least) is the version sung by jazz singer Sarah Vaughan. Jazz pianist/vocalist Nina Simone also has a wonderfully haunting version of another piece in the opera titled I Loves You Porgy. And if you really want to be blown away (pun intended) listen to Miles Davis’ CD titled Porgy and Bess. It’s awesome.
With that being said I ventured to the "Great White Way" in 2012 to see the revival of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. The allure of the amazing cast (including a childhood friend) was what enticed me to go. But there was one major factor in that lineup of actors that peaked my interest even more…Audra McDonald. I had always heard how amazing of a singer she was but never had the opportunity to see her in person. She starred in one of my favorite TV shows (the now defunct Private Practice) and when she left the show I was devastated but once I saw her performance I understood why. She belonged on the stage. Starring opposite Norm Lewis (of Les Misérables fame) Audra performed Summertime in a way I had never heard before. She was amazing (I had goose bumps) and although I didn’t have the best seats in the house, I had never before been so moved by a performance. Her voice resonated throughout the theatre. I’m certain she didn’t need a mic to project her voice the way she did. As you can tell by now, I was beyond impressed and grateful for the opportunity to see her in person. Audra McDonald went on to receive a Tony Award® for her performance and in my opinion it was well deserved. If you ever have the opportunity to see her live and in person take it and run! You will not be disappointed. In the meantime, settle for second best with this weekend’s Live from Lincoln Center: Audra McDonald In Concert: Go Back Home. Audra performs, with the accompaniment of a 35-piece orchestra, the music of Porter, Berlin, Sondheim and of course Gershwin as well as many others. She will also sing music from her new CD Go Back Home. So if you are a fan, grab the best seat in the house for this musical journey Sunday, May 26 at 3 p.m. on WNED-TV.