IT MAY NOT be the same as thrilling audiences on Broadway, but

Audra McDonald

nonetheless loves participating in the kind of program she'll be doing Wednesday night.

McDonald, who, in 2014, became the first performer to win six acting Tony Awards, will be at the Merriam Theater to kick off the Kimmel Center's Seth Rudetsky Broadway Concert Series, a quartet of Merriam programs that will feature Rudetsky - a musical theater vet and high-profile host on SiriusXM's Broadway channel - conducting conversations with McDonald, Kelli O'Hara (Jan. 29), Sutton Foster (March 3) and Megan Hilty (May 5).

Doing this, offered McDonald during a recent phone chat, gives her a chance to get in front of fans who might not have an opportunity to see her on Broadway, as well as providing the opportunity for her "to break the 'fourth wall' and be myself. To speak to the audience directly and have a little more of a personal connection rather than putting on the mask of a character in a Broadway show."

Although McDonald, 45, has been Tonyized for her work in the musicals "Porgy and Bess," "Carousel," "Lady Day At Emerson's Bar & Grill" and "Ragtime," Wednesday's presentation is, she allowed, more about the spoken word than the sung one.

"It's more of an interview," she explained. "Seth will interview me and I'll tell different stories. We'll sit down and chat quite a bit. It's a casual situation; we'll be sitting in chairs for part of the [program]."

According to McDonald, there will be no pre-show prep; nothing will be discussed or rehearsed. "It's very impromptu with Seth," she noted. "He's someone who is a very quick thinker, and he's one of the great Broadway minds we have . . . he knows all the history, all the trivia, and he's a very good conversationalist. It all depends on what he wants to talk about."

That could make for a scary time for her, but this won't be the first go-round for the McDonald-Rudetsky combo. As such, she won't have to worry about "gotcha" questions that could humiliate her or put her in an awkward situation.

"I've known Seth for over 20 years and I've done this kind of program many times in the past," she said, adding that just because the format is old-hat for the pair, it doesn't mean the questions and answers will be by rote.

"I think it's always different," insisted the versatile actress who also won Tonys for her dramatic work in "Raisin in the Sun" and "Master Class" (she starred in the Terrence McNally drama's world premiere staged by Philadelphia Theatre Company). "It's whatever he wants to talk about, or whatever stories he wants me to tell. You just never know what he's going to want to talk about, which makes the evening very entertaining."

And lest you think this will be a tuneless affair, keep in mind this is dubbed the "Broadway Concert Series." As such, there will be musical interludes with Rudetsky doubling as McDonald's pianist.

Merriam Theater, Broad and Spruce streets, 8 p.m. Wednesday, $29-$125, 215-893-1999,

Drake update

This month was supposed to see the debut of the dual-theater complex inside the Drake Building at 1512 Spruce St. that will be the home of five local entities: InterAct Theatre Company, Inis Nua Theatre, Azuka Theatre, Simpatico Theatre Project and PlayPenn, a nascent body dedicated to creating new works. But construction delays have put the kibosh on that notion.

According to the latest projections, the curtain will be raised Jan. 22, when InterAct stages "#therevolution" ("Grounded," which was supposed to open this month, will be rescheduled for InterAct's 2016-17 season). In the meantime, "Hooked!" which Inis Nua planned as its maiden voyage in the new space, will run Wednesday through Oct. 25 at Fergie's Pub, 1214 Sansom St. (which is cool, because the play takes place in an Irish pub).

In addition, Azuka's "Lights Rise on Grace" is now booked Nov. 4 through 22 at the Adrienne Theatre (2030 Sansom St.), while during the same time period, Simpatico will offer "Watership Down" at Drexel University's Mandell Theater, (3141 Chestnut St.).

Rodgers & Hammerstein on film

This weekend, New Hope's Bucks County Playhouse will become a movie theater as it serves up a three-flick tribute to musical-theater immortals

Richard Rodgers


Oscar Hammerstein


The mini-fest kicks off at 7:30 tonight with a screening of the celluloid version of "The King and I," followed by "Oklahoma!" (3 p.m. tomorrow) and "The Sound of Music" (7:30 p.m. tomorrow).

Hammerstein, of course, composed the lyrics to the plays' (and films') iconic scores while living at his estate, Highland Farm, in Doylestown, just a stone's throw down Route 202 from New Hope.

Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S. Main St., New Hope, $12 (adults) and $7 (kids under 12), 215-862-2121,

On Twitter: @chuckdarrow