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Six-Time Tony Winner, Famed Broadway Star Audra McDonald to Grace the 2024 Rose Parade as Grand Marshal

Published on Friday, December 1, 2023 | 9:13 am

[UPDATED] Audra McDonald was named Grand Marshal of the 2024 Tournament of Roses by Tournament President Alex Aghajanian at a ceremony on the front steps of the Tournament House in Pasadena Friday morning.

McDonald will ride in the 135th Rose Parade presented by Honda, themed “Celebrating a World of Music,” and participate in the pre-game celebration by tossing the coin at the College Football Playoffs Semifinal at the 110th Rose Bowl Game both on Monday, January 1.

The announcement was a celebratory event, just 30 days before the 135th Rose Parade presented by Honda, attended by Tournament Members, local public figures and community members. Audra made the ceremonial walk down the front steps of Tournament House to the song, “On Broadway” and enthusiastic applause.

Earlier the Tournament had teased the media about the Grand Marshal’s identity by hinting the person was just one award short of achieving the distinguished ‘EGOT’ status, having won three of the four major American entertainment awards: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony (EGOT).

McDonald has won numerous awards throughout her career. She has won six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and one Primetime Emmy Award

In the world of performing arts, Audra McDonald stands out as a beacon of versatility and talent. Her prowess in theater, music, and television has left audiences spellbound, and her legacy is defined by unmatched performances and lauded portrayals across various mediums.

McDonald’s artistry, both as a singer and an actor, is unparalleled. She has a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two GRAMMY® Awards, and an Emmy® Award to her name. In 2015, she was honored with the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama and was listed among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. Her Tony-winning performances span a range of productions, including Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. The latter also marked her Olivier-nominated debut in London’s West End in 2017.

On the small screen, McDonald has made her mark as the Emmy-winning host of PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center and has had recurring roles on shows like Private Practice, The Good Wife, The Good Fight, and The Gilded Age. Her filmography includes Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast and MGM’s 2021 Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect.

A soprano trained at Juilliard, McDonald continues to have a significant career as a GRAMMY-winning recording and concert artist. Her latest solo album, Sing Happy, was recorded live with the New York Philharmonic for Decca Gold.

Offstage, McDonald is a founding member of Black Theatre United, serves on the board of Covenant House International, and is a staunch advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights. However, her most cherished roles are those she plays in her personal life: an activist, wife to actor Will Swenson, and mother.

Over the years, the Grand Marshal role has been filled by a diverse array of individuals, including entertainers, former presidents, Olympians, astronauts, and more.

Left to right, Royal Court Princesses Emmerson Tucker, Olivia Bohanec, and Phoebe Ho, 2024 Rose Parade Grand Marshal Audra McDonald (dressed all in black), Rose Queen Naomi Stillitano, and Royal Princesses Mia Moore-Walker, Trinity Dela Cruz and Jessica Powell. [Eddie Rivera/Pasadena Now]
In recent years, the Grand Marshals have included former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2023, LeVar Burton in 2022, and Rita Moreno, Laurie Hernández, and Gina Torres in 2020. 

The Grand Marshal tradition has seen some unique instances. 

For example, the Disney family is the only family to have more than one member serve as Grand Marshal: Walt Disney in 1966, his nephew Roy E. Disney in 2000, and Mickey Mouse in 2005. In 1952, seven Medal of Honor recipients served as the grand marshals, the most in one parade.

Dr. Francis F. Rowland  — who moved to Pasadena in 1887 and was one of the founders of the Rose Parade — was the Grand Marshal more than any other person, a total of seven times. Former child actress Shirley Temple Black holds the runner-up position, having been Grand Marshal three times.

The Grand Marshal role has also been posthumously awarded.

Jackie Robinson was the first ever posthumous Grand Marshal in 1991. In 2015, Louis Zamperini was selected as the Grand Marshal, but he passed away before the parade. The Tournament honored him posthumously, making him the second posthumous Grand Marshal.

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