Audra McDonald will return to Broadway this spring singing the blues as Billie Holiday.
Producers said Tuesday that the five-time Tony Award-winner will star in Lanie Robertson’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” a musical that imagines one of Holiday’s last performances in 1959.
Previews begin March 25 at the Circle in the Square Theatre and opening night is set for April 13. The venue will allow some lucky members of the audience to sit at tables onstage.
Her new show, to be directed by Lonny Price, puts an ailing Holiday in a small club in Philadelphia and lets McDonald sing such timeless classics as “Somebody’s On My Mind,” “Don’t Explain” and “Strange Fruit.”
McDonald spent four seasons on TV’s “Private Practice” and won her fifth Tony Award for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” She won raves as Mother Superior in the recent live NBC special “The Sound of Music” with Carrie Underwood. She released her fifth solo album, “Go Back Home,” last summer.
She won three Tony Awards before the age of 30 – for “Carousel,” “Master Class” and “Ragtime” – a fourth in 2004 for “A Raisin in the Sun” and a fifth for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” She also has two Grammy Awards.
McDonald’s three Emmy nominations were earned in the HBO version of “Wit” in 2001, for reprising her Broadway role in “A Raisin in the Sun” in a 2008 made-for-TV adaptation and for her role as official host of PBS’s “Live From Lincoln Center.”
The Holiday musical will be produced by Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel. Robertson, whose work also includes “Nobody Lonesome for Me” and “Nasty Little Secrets,” first dreamed up the Holiday musical in the mid-1980s.