(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/15; via Pam Green.)
Audra McDonald’s pregnancy was a surprise. But was it an accident, an illness or neither?
That is the question the producers of the Broadway musical “Shuffle Along” are asking a court to decide as it demands that an insurance company, Lloyd’s of London, compensate the show for what it says were more than $12 million in damages. The show closed in July, four months after performances began, when Ms. McDonald, who was 45 at the time, became pregnant, and the producers decided they could not continue once she went on maternity leave.
The show, with a full title of “Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” was a new musical, written and directed by George C. Wolfe, that explored the history of one of the earliest all-black musicals on Broadway. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, but won none; its post-opening grosses were strong, ranging from $755,787 to $985,656 a week.
The cast featured several much-honored performers, but Ms. McDonald, who has won six Tony awards, was its biggest star, and, the producers said, the biggest attraction for ticketbuyers. Her role involved substantial tap dancing, and she left the cast, citing guidance from her doctor, three months before giving birth to a daughter, Sally James McDonald-Swenson. (Ms. McDonald is married to the actor Will Swenson.)