Audra McDonald began studying the arts at a young age and graduated from the Roosevelt School of the Arts program within Theodore Roosevelt High School in Fresno. She got her start in acting with Dan Pessano and Good Company Players, beginning in their Junior Company.
"I knew I wanted to be involved in theater when I had my first chance to perform with the Good Company Players Junior Company." She studied classical voice as an undergraduate under Ellen Faull at the Juilliard School, graduating in 1993.
McDonald became a three-time Tony Award winner by age 28 for her performances in "Carousel," "Master Class," and "Ragtime," placing her alongside Shirley Booth, Gwen Verdon and Zero Mostel by accomplishing this feat within five years.
She was nominated for another Tony Award for her performance in "Marie Christine" before she won her fourth in 2004 for her role in "A Raisin in the Sun," placing her in the company of other four-time winning actresses Gwen Verdon and Mary Martin.
She reprised her role in "Raisin" for a 2008 television adaptation, earning her a second Emmy Award nomination. On June 10, 2012, McDonald scored her fifth Tony Award win for her portrayal of Bess in Broadway's "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," thus tying Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris.
McDonald appeared as Lizzie in the Roundabout Theatre Company's 2007 revival of "110 in the Shade," directed by Lonny Price at Studio 54, for which she shared the Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Musical with Donna Murphy.
McDonald appeared in a revised version of "Porgy and Bess," at the Loeb Drama Center from August through September 2011 and recreated the role on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, which opened on January 12, 2012.
For this role, McDonald won her fifth Tony Award and her first in a Leading Actress category. This American Repertory Theater production was "re-imagined by Suzan-Lori Parks and Diedre Murray as a musical for contemporary audiences.
" McDonald has maintained ties to her classical training and repertoire. She frequently performs in concert throughout the U.S. and has performed with musical organizations such as the New York Philharmonic and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Carnegie Hall commissioned the song cycle "The Seven Deadly Sins: A Song Cycle for McDonald," and she performed it at Carnegie's Zankel Hall on June 2, 2004. She sang two solo one-act operas at the Houston Grand Opera in March 2006 -- Francis Poulenc's La Voix Humaine and the world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's "Send (who are you? I love you).
" On February 10, 2007, McDonald starred with Patti LuPone in the Los Angeles Opera production of Kurt Weill's opera "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny" directed by John Doyle. The recording of the Los Angeles Opera production of Kurt Weill's opera "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," featuring McDonald and Patti LuPone, won two Grammy Awards, for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album in February 2009.
McDonald has recorded five solo albums for Nonesuch Records. At the 2010 BCS National Championship Game on January 7, McDonald sang America the Beautiful for the sold-out stadium fans to celebrate the final game of the college football season.
McDonald has also made many television appearances, both musical and dramatic. In 2001, she received her first Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie for the HBO film "Wit.
" She also has appeared on "Homicide: Life on the Street," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years," the short-lived "Mister Sterling," "The Bedford Diaries," and "Kidnapped," and in the 1999 television remake of "Annie" as Daddy Warbucks' secretary and soon-to-be wife, Miss Farrell.
In 2013, McDonald performed the role of Mother Superior opposite Carrie Underwood's Maria in The Sound of Music Live. In the 2017 film version of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," McDonald voices the character of Madame de Garderobe.
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