Album Review: Audra McDonald – Go Back Home (2013)

“Maybe someday I’ll get lucky”

It took seven years for Audra McDonald to get around to her fifth solo album Go Back Home but as the adage says, some things are just worth waiting for. As entertaining as her diversion into the world of singer-songwriters on previous collection Build A Bridge was, there’s real joy in hearing her return so whole-heartedly to the world of musical theatre, particularly when it is as gloriously well done as this.

As ever, there’s the mixture of old and new that has typified McDonald’s output – the dips into the classics, represented here by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim and Styne, and the showcasing of the new, the likes of Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel and Steven Marzullo who have regularly received her patronage. Such intelligent support of her industry has longed proved invaluable and helped to establish her at its forefront.

And it’s not hard to begrudge her that position as evidenced from the opening notes of the tender ‘Go Back Home’ from Kander and Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys to a joyous ‘Make Someone Happy’ from Do-Re-Mi at the album’s close. McDonald’s peerless soprano exudes an extraordinary warmth and hopefulness that takes you gently by the hand and takes you on a wonderful journey with it. “You can fly, you can fly” she sings in Steel Pier’s ‘First You Dream’ and you know what, you truly believe her. 

Whether reframing ‘Edelweiss’ (with husband Will Swenson on guitar) as an American classic, hitting ethereal heights on Guettel’s ‘Migratory V’, or transforming Adam Gwon’s ‘I’ll Be Here’ from his Ordinary Days into something special, there’s not a duff note to be had across the 12 tracks here. The range and depth of McDonald’s interpretative skills could not deserve a better showcase than this – you wouldn’t bet on her winning another six Tonys at this rate!

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