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Backstage at the 2021 Tony Awards
Backstage at the 2021 Tony Awards
Audra McDonald

One Question with Audra McDonald

A quick catch-up with the legend of stage and screen

Neil Patrick Harris is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Wondercade. In his spare time he also acts — fairly well, too, as his Tony and Emmy Awards can attest.

March 29, 2023 6:55 pm

The actress and host of the 74th annual Tony Awards Ceremony — which makes her and me some kind of distant, cosmic siblings in the annals of Broadway lore — the charming and talented Audra McDonald shares a quick tale from the trenches of the biggest night in American theatre.

NPH: Audra, you just masterfully hosted the Tony Awards ceremony. A strange year for live theatre, to be certain. I was going to ask you why you wanted to host, but figured you’d just profess your love for the stage and the necessity of reviving this weakened industry — a truthful and noble answer, but also expected. So instead I’ll ask you about the broadcast itself: What randomness happened on or offstage that you, accomplished thespian Audra MacDonald, weren’t expecting (e.g., technical glitch, wardrobe malfunction, fistfight)?

AM: So I had a quick-change booth off stage left, since I had to keep entering and exiting for intros all night. After introducing a pair of celebs, I walked off stage to said booth, where I discovered an enormous horsefly. It was one of those really big, heavy flies. It kept kinda dive-bombing me and my hair-and-makeup team. So I grabbed my enormous script for the Tonys and spent the entire commercial break trying to kill it. Eventually we thought if we just turned off the light in the quick-change booth it would go somewhere else, but then I realized it would head for the next light source — the stage — and then we would have a Vice Presidential debate local-fly-makes-good moment while someone was trying to accept a Tony award. So I dug deep, did my best Ado Annie shot (with the script) and squashed all of its dreams of starring in a one-fly show at the Winter Garden. I then ran back on stage to introduce the next segment, a little sweaty and breathless but confident I had saved the day.

NPH: Brilliant. And one quick follow-up: What would you do if your pet suddenly started talking?

AM: If Butler (our tail-wagging doggy) suddenly started talking, we would give him an iPhone so he could text us his list of complaints about the amount of treats he receives on a daily basis.

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