I like Audra McDonald, I’ve always liked Audra McDonald. But I’ve never publicly admitted to listening to her, lest I be pegged a show tunes queen. Fortunately, I can still remain show-tunes-queen-free as Ms. McDonald’s new album departs from her standard playbook.

New York Times music critic Stephen Holden calls Ms. McDonald “a supremely gifted lyric soprano” whose previous works have concentrated mostly on Broadway tunes. And Ms. McDonald is an admitted “theater geek”. Yet Build a Bridge, released on Nonesuch Records, leads Ms. McDonald into a new world of contemporary pop music.

When asked if Build a Bridge was a pop album on NPR’s All Things Considered, Ms. McDonald answered, “For me, [these are] songs that could be in musicals. Almost all of them, you know, are character-driven and tell wonderful stories. But I decided I just didn’t want to go to music theater to look for these songs.”

Then what is Build a Bridge? It’s a beautiful collection of pop-inspired songs, but these are not simple covers, each song has gracefully integrated Ms. McDonald’s theatrical talents.

For example, the album’s version of the Elvis Costello-Burt Bacharach song “God Give Me Strength” is a dramatic aria. Build a Bridge also includes songs by John Mayer “My Stupid Mouth”, Neil Young “My Heart” and Laura Nyro “To a Child” and “Tom Cat Goodbye”.

Ms. McDonald is currently on a multi-city tour.

Click here  to visit Amazon.com and hear sample songs from "Build a Bridge"