Audra McDonald emerged as one of the premiere musical performers on Broadway before tackling other media. The Berlin-born, Fresno-raised mezzo-soprano began her performing career at age nine in local dinner theaters. At the urging of her educator parents, McDonald enrolled at Juilliard as a voice student, but she secretly harbored the desire to perform on Broadway. She has been candid about finding opera studies difficult ("I had danced around the room singing to Barbra Streisand. That's what I wanted to do," she told The New York Times, August 30, 1998). Taking what she termed a "mental sabbatical," McDonald auditioned for and landed a role in the touring company of the musical "The Secret Garden." In June 1993, she was asked to audition for the proposed revival of "Carousel"; when she opened her mouth to sing, she fainted. Recovering, McDonald went on to impress the producers and, in a bit of non-traditional casting, landed the role of Carrie Pipperidge. While there were a handful of people who had problems with a black woman playing the role opposite a white man, McDonald and her stunning performance impressed audiences and critics. At the end of the season, she won almost every conceivable award as featured actress in a musical, including the Tony Award.