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News / Theater & Performance

Audra McDonald has a presumptive 2035 Tony winner in the oven

Shuffle Along
Photograph: Julieta Cervantes

Audra McDonald has always been full of surprises, and her latest is a lulu. The national treasure and Tony Award hoarder, currently starring in Broadway's Shuffle Along, announced today that she will take a leave of absence from the production because she and husband Will Swenson (Hair), himself a Broadway eminence, will be having a child. “Who knew that tap dancing during perimenopause could lead to pregnancy?” said McDonald in a statement. “Will and I are completely surprised—and elated—to be expecting a new addition to our family.” When born, the child will be held aloft on a rock overhanging Times Square so that Broadway fans can view their new king or queen.

All right, that last part may or may not be true, though obviously we hope it's true. What we do know is that McDonald will be in Shuffle Along a little longer than she expected before she was expecting. McDonald had been scheduled to take a three-month break from the show in late June to perform her 2014 Tony vehicle, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, at Wyndham's Theatre in London; that engagement how now been postponed, and McDonald will stay on Broadway through July 24.

When McDonald does take leave from the production, the role of Lottie Gee will be assumed by the versatile singer Rhiannon Giddens, who trained in opera and whose string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, won a Grammy Award—in the Best Traditional Folk Album category—for 2010’s Genuine Negro Jig. Also stepping into Shuffle Along at that time will be the man behind its extraordinary choreography: Savion Glover, one of the world’s great tap dancers. (It will be Giddens’s first Broadway show, and Glover’s fifth as a performer.)

McDonald and Swenson—or “McDonson,” as no one calls them—both have children from previous relationships, but this would the first that they have created together. Although it is by no means guaranteed that children will inherit their parents’ show business abilities, this might be a good time to point out that Liza Minnelli won her first Tony in 1965, at the age of 19. No pressure, kid! But the whole world is waiting.

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