Absolutely thrilling. That describes Audra McDonald’s Avery Fisher Hall performance at Lincoln Center’s spring gala on weekday evening. The terribly sound of the word “thrilling,” with its suggestion of associate degree embedded trill, evokes qualities inherent in Ms. McDonald’s soprano, that gave the impression to change surface in ever-richer textures as she imbued songs with a way of detonating chance.
The acquainted songs “First You Dream,” from the Kander and Ebb show “Steel Pier,” and also the Styne-Comden-Green ballad “Make somebody Happy” from “Do Re Mi,” were infused with the joy of discovery, as if Ms. McDonald and also the audience were along realizing however humble Broadway songs delivered with passion and intelligence might convey basic emotional truths. From “Make somebody Happy”: “Fame if you win it/ Comes and goes in an exceedingly minute/ Where’s the $64000 stuff in life to cling to?”
That song is that the final variety on Ms. McDonald’s new album, “Go Back Home” (Nonesuch), her initial unharness in seven years. The name of its title song, from the Kander and Ebb show “Scottsboro Boys,” conjointly reflects Ms. McDonald’s re-commitment to recent theater songs, several by enterprising composers. Younger songwriters were the main target of her 1998 album, “Way Back to Paradise,” once that she people from the innovative to a safer, additional conservative position and pursued a tv career. Who, I had puzzled, would currently lead the charge for the youth brigade?
The younger composers Ms. McDonald championed on weekday enclosed the team of Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler (“Baltimore”), Adam Gwon (“I’ll Be Here”), archangel Kahane (songs from “Craigslistlieder”), and also the ever-iconoclastic archangel John LaChiusa, whose work was conjointly showcased in “Way Back to Paradise.” Mr. LaChiusa’s new songs return from his musical “Marlene Dietrich’s bedrock,” that star’s personal wordbook of observations from the first Sixties, impressed by letters of the alphabet.
What most of the newer songs have in common is their colloquial quality. The words dominate and pullulate of thereforeng forms so freely that you just lose a standard sense of structure and in some cases even of rhyme and meter, for the sake of specificity. The humorous “Baltimore” is extremely specific in continuance a mother’s recommendation to “avoid REO Speedwagon-loving, St. Christopher Walken-imitating thespians originally from port.”
The Sondheim variety Ms. McDonald selected, the Baker’s married person song “Moments within the Woods,” from “Into the Woods,” was one amongst his talkiest. just like the songwriter song “Moonshine Lullaby,” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” which Ms. McDonald delivered with a delicate bluesy lilt once declaring it to be her favorite song from the show, “Moments” is additionally comparatively obscure. (Andy Einhorn conducted the orchestra, that created a full, communicative sound whereas ne'er happening on the singer.)
The newer song with the foremost immediate emotional charge, Mr. Gwon’s “I’ll Be Here,” from the show “Ordinary Days,” recollects a relationship deeply full of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, while not really naming the event. One of Ms. McDonald’s greatest gifts is to search out the story within the song and deliver it with immediacy and clarity, in an exceedingly voice that finds a versatile, intuitive balance between storytelling and singing — a shaping voice of our time.