Audra McDonald raises money for charity with special gifts

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Grabbing a hot chocolate at the theater-district restaurant Sardi's usually costs only a few bucks, but when you add one special ingredient, it soars to $2,250. What's that ingredient? Audra McDonald.

The six-time Tony Award winner is offering to join you and a guest over cocoa as part of her effort to raise money for homeless young people. The get-together — which also later includes a short private performance — is one of several prizes she's offering to raise $25,000 for Covenant House by Aug. 12.

McDonald got involved in the effort last year when she watched Covenant House staff welcome a homeless youth into their shelter. She found out more about the group and "my heart broke open," she said Friday. "All of a sudden, I felt like, 'I need to be a part of it.'"

For $1,000, she'll deliver a singing telegraph over the phone. For $250, you get a signed copy of McDonald's CD "Go Back Home." For $100, she'll tweet her thanks and for $50, she'll recognize you on her Facebook page.

A $500 donation gets you a video message and McDonald is offering to play Cupid. "If you want help proposing to someone, maybe I'll send the proposal for you," she said. "Or if there's someone special you always wanted to ask out, maybe I can help."

All money goes to Covenant House International. On Nov. 19, McDonald will join a candlelight vigil in Times Square and join members of the theatrical community in sleeping on the streets in solidarity. The hot chocolate meetup happens then, followed by a tour of Covenant House and a private performance.

In the meantime, McDonald is very busy. She and her husband, Will Swenson, are starring in "A Moon for the Misbegotten" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.

She also has filmed her Tony-winning performance as Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" for HBO. The special was shot with a live audience over three shows in an abandoned club in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

In the fall, she'll join workshops of the Broadway-bound "Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed," which will be choreographed by Savion Glover and be written and directed by Tony Award-winning director George C. Wolfe.

To goose interest in the charity fundraiser, McDonald and Swenson are recording theme songs for various iconic TV shows. Last week they posted on Vimeo the song from "Laverne & Shirley." This week is "Diff'rent Strokes," posted Friday.

"I know 'The Jeffersons' will make their way in there at some point. 'Maude.' 'All in the Family.' We got lots," McDonald said, laughing.