DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Tony Nominee Andrea McArdle

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14 Dec 2012

Andrea McArdle
Andrea McArdle
Photo by Robert Mannis

News, views and reviews about the women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Andrea McArdle, whose booming, crystal-clear rendition of the Annie anthem "Tomorrow" brought her overnight fame in the original Broadway production of that Tony-winning musical, is currently enjoying a jam-packed schedule. In January the Broadway belter will return to the new Manhattan nightspot 54 Below for concerts Jan. 17-19. It is at 54 Below where McArdle will record new tracks for "70s and Sunny: Live at 54 Below," the first of her two upcoming recordings for the Broadway Records label. The second CD, "Calendar Dreams," which will team McArdle with an array of award-winning theatre composers, charts a year's journey in a woman's life month by month. And, McArdle has also signed on for two productions of the classic Jerry Herman musical Mame. She will play the eccentric Mame April 17-May, 2013, at Pennsylvania's Media Theatre for the Performing Arts and, subsequently, for three weeks at The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to chat with the Tony-nominated singing actress while she was appearing in the acclaimed Off-Broadway musical revue NEWSical the Musical, a rare comedic outing for the star who said the experience, thanks to producer Tom D'Angora, "was a blast. And, I'm nuts for the people in that show." McArdle reminisced about Annie, Les Misérables and also spoke about her upcoming recordings.

Question: Having been identified with Annie for so many years, what does the show mean to you?
McArdle: I had a real sense of pride just watching [the revival], and it's so funny because even before [Lilla Crawford] opens her mouth to sing "Tomorrow," it's like she's a rock star. It's so interesting because when we did it, people were discovering it and it was brand-new. But now, it's become like Americana, and it's nostalgic. It's loved like Sound of Music is, and so, for me, there's a huge sense of pride because it's part of my legacy that will never go away. And, maybe we have another production of it that really kind of hits big. I'm so willing to pass the torch on because I haven't been able to be that forever and ever, and so hopefully this will help people move on, and I'll get to do my next chapter of great roles.

Question: You've sung "Tomorrow" so many times over the years, and it's such an optimistic song. Has that song ever gotten you through something in your own life?

McArdle and the original Sandy
photo by Martha Swope

McArdle: You know, I can see what it does to people when I sing it, so I've made my peace a long time ago, and it's a great song. It's a hard song. I mean, it's a great song, and it's my song. No matter who plays that role, it will forever be my song. And, I'm proud of that…[although] it was a little hard to accept when you're 13 and you're "adolescing." [Laughs.] You don't understand… Carol Channing was the one who really shed some light on that for me when we did Jerry's Girls because I was talking to a few of the leggy—the hot Jerry's Girls ensemble—and they were like, "You must be so sick of that song," and I was like, "Yeah, I'm really sick of it." And, she pulled me over in the way that only Carol would, and she was like, "Andrea! When [Jerry's Girls co-star] Leslie [Uggams] goes on the Tony Awards, what kind of music are they going to play when she walks on?" And, I said, "I don't know," and she goes, "Exactly." [Laughs.] She kind of said, "That's your song and don't ever let me hear you dissing it ever again." And, it really did put it into perspective for me. It's yours. Cherish it. Respect it. Treasure it… At this point, I think it's cool. Before it was a little hard for me to take because it's hard to be known for something you couldn't be a year after you did it. So that's a little odd, and the sad thing for people like me and [late Annie co-star] Laurie Beechman and the people who were hot then was that American Broadway was dead—where were the vehicles? … I mean, if the British invasion hadn't come in, Broadway was dead. In the late 80s, it was just dead. They didn't fund the writers, and it was just a weird time—that's when corporate Broadway merged. We used to have the same 13 guys producing everything, and we all knew each other. And, we could all fit into Tavern on the Green—everybody. But now it's huge [with] American Express and Universal Entertainment… It's a totally different ballgame now. It's weird because I was so young, but I was so aware—even at 13. You're so aware of the infrastructure of our little genre—our little Broadway thing. It was like dancing on the head of a pin, but it's a very different game now, and it's a much bigger business...

Question: You also played Miss Hannigan a couple times regionally. What was that like for you?
McArdle: The first time I did it, I was directed by the great Casey Hushion down at North Carolina Theatre. I had no idea the minute I heard that French horn at the beginning of the show—I'm totally cool about it, and I'm not a big mushy person like that—[but] the minute I heard those chords and heard the kids doing that thing, it was incredibly emotional, so it was very hard for me to do that role because it felt like an out-of-body experience the first time. But then I went to L.A. almost immediately after, and I did probably some of my best work. I did a really great interpretation… You can't forget Dorothy Loudon, and I also learned everything [from her]. [Laughs.] I got to watch her eight times a week, so I learned a whole lot from her. I felt I was really good in the role, [and] I got really terrific reviews… They wouldn't see me for the role [on Broadway], which kind of annoyed me.


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