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I was lucky enough to work at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts (now Toronto Centre) when Ragtime previewed there before heading south and ultimately Broadway. I became enamoured with the sweeping score, marvelled at the clever choreography and pretty much lived in awe of the entire spectacle.

But one thing...person...stood out for me. Audra McDonald. Here was a performer who not only looked like me but sounded like me. I hadn't really seen that many black performers with such a pure classical sound. At least not in musical theatre. Sure there was Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman & Kathleen Battle but they were all stars in the Opera genre.

The musical theatre genre was populated by the Lillias Whites, Nell Carters and Jennifer Hollidays. Big, powerful belting voices. I could often emulate that sound but it wasn't a comfortable fit.

But if I wanted to have a career in musical theatre I had to cultivate that type of voice. At least that's what I believed until I heard Audra sing for the first time. Here was this gorgeous, powerhouse, emoting up a storm...with a classical sound.

Hearing her beautiful, soaring soprano validated me. I finally felt, here was a space in Musical Theatre I could comfortably inhabit.

And breaking free of that particular self imposed artistic prison led me to other new discoveries. Other roles that I'd assumed I wouldn't be able to do because I didn't fit the mould already created.

So each time I get to revisit this score and this role I remember that first discovery of a beautiful black woman singing in unapologetic classical musical theatre style. And I'm grateful for the validation

And if you're inclined, please come see my third turn in Ragtime (second as Sarah)

Ragtime in Concert

Presented by Encores by Encore

Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts

5040 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

Saturday September 29th 8pm

Sunday September 30th 1:30pm & 7:30pm

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