Audra McDonald didn’t get to Carnegie Hall until she was at Juilliard, when she saw Ella Fitzgerald sing there. “A friend of mine calls it an upside-down wedding cake,” she recalls of that fabled hall she first entered 27 years ago. Six Tonys, two Grammys and a National Medal of Arts later, McDonald, 48, will join Renée Fleming and the San Francisco Symphony on Wednesday to kick off Carnegie’s new season. From the “upper Upper West Side,” where she lives with husband Will Swenson and their four children, she tells BARBARA HOFFMAN how she spends her weekends.
We usually go for a late brunch at the Indian Road Cafe in Inwood. In fact, I went into labor there! They have amazing food, but it’s their plain old breakfast I love most: eggs, applewood-smoked bacon and toast with avocado and hot sauce. I was so excited to dive in [that day], and then I went into labor and didn’t get to finish!
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Nowadays, with our little one [Sally, nearly 2], we spend a lot of time at the Bronx Zoo. If you’re looking for a place to take a toddler where she can run around and be stimulated, it’s perfect. We’ll ride the Bug Carousel — like, six or seven times — and we spend a lot of time at the petting zoo. She can run around and you don’t have to worry: It’s a safe, enclosed place, and along the way, there’s a gorilla or a bear or a buffalo.
Whenever I can get to a gym — which is not very often! — I’m a big fan of Equinox. It’s a moment when I’m not having to be Mommy, and I can go and do a workout. My treat is to sit in that sauna. People will come and go, and I’ll be still there for, like, an hour, shriveled up.
My husband and I rarely get to go on dates, but when we do, we try to get to a Broadway show. Usually we’re in them, so that prevents you from seeing your buddies in their shows. We like to go to Victor’s [Café, on 52nd Street], then hold hands and walk down the street and feel like a couple.
I don’t go to brick-and-mortar stores for clothes anymore. I hate shopping with a white-hot passion, so the fact that we can shop online is a joy. The one thing I will go to is a baby store. Albee Baby, on the Upper West Side, has everything you need, from strollers to beach toys to plates that are rubber suctioned at the bottom so the kids can’t throw them off the table.
My life is not the fabulous, glamorous one it used to be. It’s much more “domestic goddess” now!
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