How rare to attend a concert given by a Broadway star and hear exactly the songs one wants to hear — the artist's signature tunes, other theatre songs featuring great arrangements and a few unexpected delights.
Such was the case last Sunday evening when the ever-youthful Andrea McArdle took to the stage of the intimate Joe's Pub located within the Public Theater. McArdle, whose voice is as pure and clear as when she first strode the boards in the 1977 Tony winner Annie, began the Richard Jay-Alexander-directed evening with a charming, wistful version of that musical's "N.Y.C." From the moment she sang "N.Y.C./ What is it about you?/ You're big/ You're loud. . . ," she had the sold-out crowd in the palm of her hands.
McArdle then fast-forwarded two decades and offered a tune from her most recent Broadway outing, State Fair's "It Might As Well Be Spring." The singer-actress, who has an easy charm onstage, doesn't take herself too seriously: She displayed old headshots featuring a frizzy-haired eighties McArdle and even joked, "I know when you hear the name Stephen Sondheim, the first thought is not 'Andrea McArdle.'" McArdle, however, hoped to change that notion and did extremely well with three Sondheim favorites: a high-voltage rendition of "Everybody Says Don't" that featured a terrific modulation mid-song; a wonderful, slowed-down arrangement of "You Could Drive a Person Crazy"; and a belty rendition of the Follies ballad "Losing My Mind."
McArdle also impressed with songs from several of her other theatrical ventures: the title tune from Beauty and the Beast (performed with musical director Ben Toth), the Les Misérables heartbreaker "I Dreamed a Dream" and Cabaret's "Maybe This Time." Other highlights included the Carpenter's "Superstar" and two other theatre gems: Promises, Promises' "Knowing When to Leave" and Hair's "Easy to Be Hard." McArdle concluded her set with her signature tune "Tomorrow." Her rendition remains as fresh and exciting as ever; in fact, no "Annie" since has come close to the wide-eyed innocence and infectious optimism that McArdle brings to the tune. She returned for one final offering, the Judy Garland standard "Over the Rainbow."
Truth be told, McArdle flubbed a lyric here and there, but she has such an easy-going stage demeanor, one is just happy to be in her warm, engaging presence. (My favorite line of the evening: "I'm the only 40-year-old who would make sense singing 'I'm Still Here.'") Let's hope McArdle, who is equally at home singing theatre classics and pop ballads, makes her New York concert appearances more frequent.
SIX OF ONE
With the news that A Chorus Line is headed back to Broadway comes word of another musical about the lives of talented young performers. Six of One is the tentative title of a new musical in development, co-conceived by Joy director Ben Rimalower.
Six young actresses — Hairspray's Leslie Kritzer, Bare's Natalie Joy Johnson, The Boy From Oz's Stephanie Kurtzuba, Hair's Julie Garnyé, Urinetown's Sheri Sanders and comic Poppi Kramer — are lending their stories in and out of show business to the project, which is in its early stages. Director Rimalower told me earlier in the week, "They're all so loud and so funny and so dominant in personality! Right now, we're developing the show using the Chorus Line model — confessionals and interviews about their experiences as six young actor-singers, who are friends and have to compete for the same parts.
"The next level of this process," explained Rimalower, "is going to be improvs. We hope to have monologues and scenes come out of them. Then, we're doing a presentation for a bunch of songwriters, and eventually we'll do one evening at the Ars Nova Theater, probably in August and September."
Rimalower, who also hopes to open a commercial run of Joy — the well-received romantic comedy that played the Producer's Club earlier this year — said he's having a great time working with these six multi-talented women. "What we've found already," he said, "is even though they're all so different from each other, they have so much common experience. It's amazing the things that they've all gone through in this business."
Reel Pride: The Greater Palm Springs Gay & Lesbian Film Festival will kick off its weekend of films with the 1986 movie musical "Little Shop of Horrors." The screening — April 14 at 7:30 PM — will be held at the Cinémas Palme d'Or in Palm Desert, CA and will feature a guest appearance by the star of the film (and the original stage production) Ellen Greene. Greene will take part in a question-and-answer session following the movie and will also offer a song or two — accompanied by musical director Christian Klikovits — at the post-screening theme party at Peters at the Atrium in Rancho Mirage. Visit www.thepalme.com or www.reelprideonline.com for more information.
Another two-time Tony Award winner has joined the cast of the new ABC comedy pilot "Adopted." Christine Baranski — who is scheduled to star in the Kennedy Center's upcoming production of Mame — will co-star in the new situation comedy opposite the previously announced Bernadette Peters. "Adopted" will also feature the talents of Kevin Wheatley as a thirtysomething writer and Andrew Walker. Peters, who continues her critically acclaimed concert tour, and Baranski will play the adoptive and birth mothers of Wheatley, who vie for his attention. The pilot is scheduled to tape March 31.
Melissa Errico, on Broadway earlier this season in Frank Wildhorn's Dracula, has been cast in the upcoming Hollywood Bowl presentation of Camelot. Errico's official website says the actress will be part of the Lerner and Loewe musical, which will be presented Aug. 14 at the famed Hollywood theatre. Stage and screen star Patrick Stewart is in negotiations to play the King. Gordon Hunt will direct the classic musical about the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The concert staging will also feature the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the direction of John Mauceri. Visit www.hollywoodbowl.org for more information.
And, finally, when I asked Charlotte d'Amboise in my October 2003 column if she had any dream roles in the theatre, the triple-threat answered without pause, "Charity, not even a question about that. I've always wanted to do that role!" D'Amboise — replacing the temporarily sidelined Christina Applegate — is set to begin performances in the Broadway-bound revival of Sweet Charity March 18 at Boston's Colonial Theatre. Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.