Last night, at her closing performance at the Festival of the Arts, Audra McDonald told a rapt audience about her youngest critic. It was her then 3-year-old daughter, who McDonald says delivered this quip, cleverer beyond her years: “Mommy, your singing makes my ears cry.”

Hundreds of ears left happy and wanting more at the Mizner Park Amphitheater last night after a dynamic concert of moving ballads, jaunty numbers and humorous anecdotes from the five-time Tony winner’s life and work. She shared some of the stories behind the tunes she chose – one of them dates serendipitously to an encounter with a street karaoke performer in Cambridge, and another she discovered as background music in Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” – engaging us every time.

What was most distinctive about McDonald’s concert was the lack of familiar songs, a decision that could torpedo a less magnetic performer. She didn’t even play any hits from “Porgy & Bess” and “Ragtime,” for which she won awards. Her selections instead ran an obscure but compelling gamut from vintage movie musicals to newer Broadway cult hits, conveying their songwriters’ messages with such passion and kineticism that it’s hard to believe she didn’t star in the original productions.

Moreover, these renditions made us want to discover these musicals ourselves and hear the songs in their original contexts. Two standing ovations concluded the show, which, to my eyes, was under-attended … but it capped off what many would agree is the best Festival of the Arts yet. Here was her set list:

  1. When Did I Fall in Love (from “Fiorello”)
  2. The Stars and the Moon (Jason Robert Brown)
  3. My Buddy (standard)
  4. I Double Dare You (Louis Armstrong)
  5. Moonshine Lullaby (from “Annie Get Your Gun”)
  6. Moments in the Woods (from “Into the Woods”)
  7. First You Dream (from “Steel Pier”)
  8. Migratory V (from “Myths and Hymns”)
  9. I Could Have Danced All Night (from “My Fair Lady”)
  10.  Whose Little Angry Man (from “Raisin”)
  11. Can’t Stop Talking About Him (from “Let’s Dance”)
  12. Craigslistlieder No. 7 (Gabe Kahane)
  13. Go Back Home (from “The Scottsboro Boys”)
  14. I’ll Be Here (from “Ordinary Days”)
  15. Make Someone Happy (from “Do Re Mi”)
  16. Some Days (Steve Marzulo, based on James Baldwin poem


17. Over the Rainbow (“The Wizard of Oz”)