Audra McDonald

  • Aired:  04/30/14
  •  | Views: 8,406

Tony Award-winning singer Audra McDonald chats about her Broadway role as Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill." (4:53)

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,EVERYBODY, MY GUEST TONIGHT

HAS WON FIVE TONYS.

JUST ONE MORE AND THAT WILLBE SIX.

PLEASE WELCOME AUDRAMcDONALD.

(APPLAUSE)AUDRA, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR

COMING BACK.

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Stephen: I LOVE IT WHENYOU'RE ON THE SHOW.

>> I HAVE A GOOD TIME ONYOUR SHOW.

>> Stephen: I'M REALLYEXCITED ABOUT THE NEW SHOW,

LADY DAY AT EMMERSON'S BARAND GRILL, YOU PLAY BILLIE

HOLIDAY.

>> BILLIE HOLIDAY WAS ONE OFTHE MOST ICONIC JAZZ SINGERS

OF THE LAST CENTURY,BASICALLY.

AND THE SHOW TAKES PLACE INMARCH OF 1959, ABOUT FOUR

MONTHS BEFORE SHE DIED.

AND SHE WAS A BIT, SHE WASDRUG ADDICTED AND SHE WAS AN

ALCOHOLIC BUT SHE WAS ALSOAN AMAZING SINGER.

AND SO THE SHOW TAKES PLACEAS A CONCERT THAT SHE'S

TRYING TO GIVE RIGHT BEFORETHE END OF HER LIFE.

AND SHE TELLS STORIES ANDTRIES TO GET TO THE CONCERT

AND DOESN'T QUITE MAKE IT ATTHE END.

>> Stephen: HERE'S MYPROBLEM WITH THIS, OKAY.

IS THAT I HAVE SEEN YOU DO ACOUPLE OF THESE SONGS AND

YOU'RE TREMENDOUS.

BUT MY FEAR IS THAT YOU'REGOING TO DRAW YOUNG PEOPLE

INTO THE JAZZ LIFESTYLE WITHTHIS SHOW.

(LAUGHTER)>> THAT WOULD BE A WONDERFUL

THING.

>> Stephen: NO, NO, BECAUSEJAZZ, I DON'T-- I DON'T GO

TO JAZZING.

BUT JAZZ LEADS TO JAZZCIGARETTES.

AND THEN SWINGING OF HIPSAND BOOGIE WOOGIE AND YOU

KNOW.

YOU'RE CORRUPTING THE YOUTHOF AMERICA.

>> ACTUALLY I THINK WHATWE'RE DOING WITH OUR SHOW IS

NOT ONLY, YOU KNOW, FORPEOPLE WHO DIDN'T KNOW

BILLIE HOLIDAY AND LOVED HERMUSIC, THEY ARE GETTING A

CHANCE TO REEXPERIENCE HERAND HER MUSIC AND HER LEGACY

BUT ALSO FOR YOUNG PEOPLETHAT ARE COMING, THEY'RE

GETTING A LITTLE BIT OF AHISTORY LESSON ABOUT THE

PLIGHT OF AFRICAN-AMERICANSIN THE FIRST HALF OF THIS

LAST CENTURY.

>> Stephen: IS THEREANYTHING THAT YOU AND BILLIE

HOLIDAY HAVE IN COMMON.

BECAUSE SHE WAS A TORTUREDINDIVIDUAL.

>> YES.

>> Stephen: YOU SEEM PRETTYHEALTHY.

>> YEAH, I DON'T THINK I WASAS TORTURED AS BILLIE.

I, YOU KNOW, I UNDERSTANDWHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A

SINGER AND BE NERVOUS ABOUTPERFORMING AND ALL THAT BUT

I DON'T NECESSARILY GO TODRUGS TO CALM ME DOWN.

I GO TO REESES PEANUT BUTTERCUPS IS MY THING.

>> Stephen: IT'S A SLOWERKILLER.

(LAUGHTER)>> Stephen: BUT IT WILL GET

THREW.

>> YES, YES.

>> Stephen: IT WILL DO THEJOB.

WHY DO WE, WHY DO WE REVERETHESE SINGERS?

HERE IS ANOTHER PROBLEM I'VEGOT WITH THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.

WE KEEP ON REVERING SINGERSWHO HAVE THESE DEMONS, WHO

DIE YOUNG.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THEM SOTHAT DRAWS US IN?

IT'S THE STORY BECOMES SOATTRACTIVE TO US.

>> OF COURSE IT DOES.

BUT I THINK YOU KNOW BECAUSEAS A SINGER SOMEONE LIKE

BILLIE HOLIDAY, YOU KNOW,ALSO SOMEONE LIKE AMY

WINEHOUSE OR WHITNEY HOUSTONWHO HAVE HAD ISSUES LIKE

THIS.

THEY WERE ALL SUCHINDIVIDUAL TALENTS.

AND SO DEEPLY CONNECTED WITHWHO THEY WERE AS PEOPLE.

AND THAT IS WHAT THEIR MUSICBROUGHT FORTH.

AND SO PEOPLE I THINK CANCONNECT TO THAT ON A REAL

SORT OF, YOU KNOW, SPIRITUALAND HUMAN LEVEL.

AND SO IT'S JUST ACONNECTION THAT HAPPENS.

AND SO THEY, LIKE TO SAYTHAT THEY ARE RAW IN A WAY,

THAT THEY DON'T HAVE NERVEENDINGS.

THEY ARE JUST SORT OFCOMPLETELY RAW AND ARE

EXPERIENCING EVERYTHING AT AMUCH DEEPER LEVEL THAN WE

ARE SO THAT I GUESS WE DON'THAVE TO.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

>> DOES THAT BOTHER YOU.

>> Stephen: WHY CAN'T WEHAVE A MUSICAL ABOUT AMY

GRANT OR ANNE MURRAY ORSOMEBODY --

>> LOOK, I'M NOT SAYING THATWE SHOULDN'T HAVE A MUSICAL

ABOUT THEM AS WELL.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

>> MAYBE THERE COULD BE AFANTASY MUSICAL AMY GRANT, ANN

MURRAY AND BILLIE HOLIDAY.

>> Stephen: AND THEY ARE ATHROUPLE.

(LAUGHTER)WELL-- WILL YOU PLEASE-- ARE

YOU PREPARED TO DO SOMEJAZZ AT US?

>> I CAN THROW A LITTLE JAZZ,BILLIE CAN THROW A LITTLE

JAZZ YOUR WAY.

>> Stephen: NOW YOU HAVE APOWERFUL OPERATIC VOICE.

SHE HAS A VOICE THAT IS MADEFRAIL THROUGH TIME AND

ABUSE.

HOW DO YOU MAKE THATADJUSTMENT?

>> IT'S BEEN REALLYDIFFICULT.

I'VE BEEN STUDYING HER VOICEFOR ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF

NOW TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOWTO BRING MY VOICE-- BECAUSE

HER VOICE IS SMALLER ANDDIDN'T HAVE A LARGE RANGE.

SO IT'S BEEN-- I'VE BEENLISTENING TO HER NIGHT AFTER

NIGHT AND STUDYING HER.

AND-- .

>> Stephen: POUNDING THE PEANUT

BUTTER CUPS.

>> POUNDING THEM HARD.

I SOUND A LITTLE BIT LIKE ACAT DURING THE DAY TRYING TO

IMITATE HER.

AND I TALK TO PEOPLE LIKEHER, YOU KNOW, I CAN TALK A

LITTLE BIT LIKE HER IF IWANTED TO.

>> Stephen: SURE.

>> MOTHER ABBOTT WOULD SAYTO YOU GOD BLESS YOU MY

CHILD AND BILLIE HOLIDAYMEANING THE SAME THING WOULD

SAY LIKE, "YOU'RE THE BEST(BLEEP) I EVER MET."

>> Stephen: I TAKE THAT AS ACOMPLIMENT.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK WITH APERFORMANCE BY AUDRA

McDONALD.

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