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McDonald to portray Holiday

Audra McDonald will return to Broadway this spring singing the blues as Billie Holiday.

Producers said Tuesday that the five-time Tony Award-winner will star in Lanie Robertson’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” a musical that imagines one of Holiday’s last performances in 1959.

Previews begin March 25 at Circle in the Square Theatre, and opening night is set for April 13.

The show, to be directed by Lonny Price, puts an ailing Holiday in a small club in Philadelphia and lets McDonald sing such timeless classics as “Somebody’s On My Mind,” “Don’t Explain” and “Strange Fruit.”

McDonald spent four seasons on TV’s “Private Practice” and won her fifth Tony Award for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” She won raves as Mother Superior in the recent live NBC special “The Sound of Music” with Carrie Underwood.

Webber’s latest show to close

It’s curtains for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical in London’s West End.

Producers say “Stephen Ward,” a tale of sex and scandal based on a real Cold War episode, will close March 29 after a run of less than four months.

The play opened in December to mixed reviews. It stars Alexander Hanson as a well-connected osteopath caught up in a scandal involving a young model, a British Cabinet minister and a Soviet attaché. It was the composer’s first new show since “Phantom of the Opera” sequel “Love Never Dies” in 2010 and featured book and lyrics by Christopher Hampton and Don Black.

Thicke, Patton separate

Robin Thicke and Paula Patton are calling it quits.

A representative for the actress confirmed Monday that the couple are ending their nine-year marriage.

Thicke, 36, and Patton, 38, met when they were teenagers. They had a son, Julian Fuego Thicke, in 2010.

Thicke had a breakthrough last year with the international hit “Blurred Lines,” which was nominated for several Grammy Awards. Patton has appeared in the films “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” “Idlewild,” and “Precious.”

Lucas gives millions to school

Filmmaker George Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, are donating $25 million to a prestigious private school on Chicago’s South Side.

The University of Chicago said Tuesday the grant from the George Lucas Family Foundation will pay for a new arts hall at the university’s Laboratory Schools.

The 86,000-square-foot building will open in 2015 and will be named for Gordon Parks, a photographer, musician and social-justice advocate.

Hobson, president of the Chicago-based Ariel Investments, married the Star Wars filmmaker in 2013.

Lucas said that art can “transform lives and communities” and that he hopes Parks’ legacy will inspire future generations. The Hyde Park school has about 1,800 students in nursery school through 12th grade.

From News and wire service reports