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Sunday, August 19, 2007


ModMusic: 110 In The Shade

One of the more preposterous musicals of last season -- and there were quite a few -- was 110 in the Shade, the paper-thin adaptation of The Rainmaker by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (The Fantasticks) that first played Broadway in 1963. Why preposterous? Because despite fine production values and a stellar cast, it was flawed in its basic conceit: the story of Lizzie, a brutally plain country girl who loses her heart to the title character. When you cast the devastatingly gorgeous four-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, the whole story is thrown off. Who wouldn't want to romance such a ravishing beauty...with a voice that sounds like spun gold?

Although the musical closed after a respectable run last month (I saw it last April), I just got around to listening to the excellently-recorded cast CD last week. And without the visual distraction of McDonald's beauty throwing off the story, the listening experience is exquisite. I don't want to overstate the case for Shade; it's never been a classic for the ages, and it's not one now. But the gentle, unchallenging songs are so well performed that it reminds one of similar (and better) shows from the era, like Finian's Rainbow, My Fair Lady and Paint Your Wagon. Leading man Steve Kazee has a superb voice, and stage vet John Cullum is appropriately crunchy as the father. But this is a revival purposefully skewed to showcase a talented actress, and McDonald doesn't disappoint. On a ballad like "Love Don't Turn Away" or a comic gem like "Raunchy" (which she performed on the Tony Awards), McDonald shows why she's the best stage performer of her generation. Now that she's poised for TV stardom this fall (on the Grey's Anatomy spinoff), I can't help worrying that 110 in the Shade will end up an unexpected farewell to her stage career. Let's all pray it's not.

Watch The Videos:
"Raunchy", Audra McDonald and John Cullum (2007 Tony Awards)
"Love Don't Turn Away", Audra McDonald
"Raunchy", Audra McDonald and John Cullum
Visit: Official Site
Then Order: 110 In The Shade, 2007 Broadway Revival Cast

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