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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Studio 54, New York

By Robert Cashill

  Audra McDonald and Company

As the Roundabout Theatre Company's thoroughly winning revival of 110 in the Shade proceeded through its first act, I wondered why the musical, an adaptation of N. Richard Nash's theater and filmic chestnut The Rainmaker with a pleasant score by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt of Fantasticks fame, hadn't been seen on Broadway since the original production folded its tent in 1964. But as its star broke hearts with her stirring performance of "Old Maid" at Act I's close, I realized why: 110 in the Shade was waiting for Audra McDonald, age 36, to give the show its luminous new lease on life.

With four Tonys to her credit, McDonald is no shrinking violet, and hardly an old maid. But in her return to musical theater after a seven-season hiatus, she has achieved a new transparency. Like Judy Garland in her prime she brings you right into the heart and soul of Lizzie, whose personal great depression in the Texas panhandle of 1936 lifts when the charming-if possibly all wet-rainmaker Starbuck (Steve Kazee, working a little magic) appears to quench the parched community. John Cullum plays Lizzie's watchful, hopeful father, H.C., and however non-traditional the casting these two great talents from across the generations are ideal as family, as are Chris Butler as her more cynical brother and a scene-stealing Bobby Steggert as her eternally optimistic youngest sibling. Booming-voiced Christopher Innvar is touchingly prideful as the town sheriff, another possible suitor to break Lizzie's long dry spell in love. Sensitively directed by Lonny Price and simply, appealingly designed, 110 in the Shade ended the 2006-2007 Broadway season as refreshingly as a cool breeze in late summer.





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