Call her crazy, but my mom says that the second I heard the opening notes of Billie's recording, I leapt over the walls of my crib, landed squarely on the piano bench and welcomed my new sister into the world by playing along and harmonizing with every line.
Audra McDonald? Playing the role of Billie Holiday? Like the rest of the theater world, that struck me as the most bizarre, unlikely casting I'd heard of since Bernadette Peters was playing Annie Oakley.
Perhaps the most complimentary remark to be made about Audra McDonald in Lady Day at the Emerson Bar & Grill is that in 90 minutes and under Lonny Price's fully empathetic direction, she nails that voice and she gets that whole life.
Determined to be open to this new take on an old favorite -- after all, "the wool of the black sheep is just as warm" -- I hunkered down with a homemade habit (not kidding), a bottle of Grüner Veltliner and an unlimited texting plan to exchange notes with my family.
Well, I just finished watching The Sound Of Music: LIVE. I'm on the West Coast and in summation: the hills are certainly still alive. (Unfortunately in one respect there is way too much "wood.") Sit back, please. This is not brief.
I expect to enjoy the telecast because the cast album is not only promising, it's frequently stunning, thanks to Ms. Underwood's vocal grace and mezzo timbre -- the role was composed for a mezzo -- and superior support from Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess.