"She got the part and I was really devastated," Andrea Martin said about losing out on a spot as one of Christ's perky followers in the 1972 Canadian company of Stephen Schwartz's first musical Godspell. The "she" was Gilda Radner, and Martin remembered being at an open call with the comedienne — both of them complete unknowns at the time. "Gilda Radner got up and sang ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' and the audience cheered," she remembered with a smile. Martin didn't fare as well. After being told she didn't make the cut she "walked to Dunkin' Donuts and bought 12 donuts and then just kinda binged on them."
She eventually got a second chance to wow the Godspell team and joined the now-legendary Toronto company that included Radner as well as other up-and-coming actors Eugene Levy, Martin Short and Victor Garber. The music director was a 23-year-old Paul Shaffer.
Following her Godspell experience, Martin and Stephen Schwartz did not professionally cross paths again for decades. Then, in a prophetic moment, Martin was asked to sing a song from another of Schwartz's famous musicals, Pippin, at a benefit honoring the songwriter. "I sang 'No Time at All,' and then I never thought about it again. Then I was asked to do Wicked [but] our schedules didn't work...And then this happened..."
"This" finds Martin delivering that same number onstage at the Music Box in a thrilling, now four-time Tony Award–winning revival of Pippin staged by Diane Paulus.
Martin plays Berthe, the titular character's grandmother, who doles out wisdom with a hint of sass to her wide-eyed grandson, the eponymous Pippin.
When Berthe was initially offered to her, "I wasn't interested," she says. "I [told my agent] at first, 'Thank them but it's [not] something I'd do now — a woman in a wheelchair coming out with the grey hair — because that's how it was conceived. Sixty six in 1970 is a lot different than 66 is now...that's my age and I don't think of myself as that."
It was at The Second City in Toronto where Martin honed her comedic chops alongside John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, and the aforementioned Martin Short and Eugene Levy. She got noticed for her oddball characters like Edith Prickley and for memorable impersonations of Barbra Streisand and Mother Teresa. Her association with the troupe led to the sketch comedy TV show "SCTV." At the same time, she nurtured her stage acting by performing in shows like Private Lives and Candide at the Stratford Festival by day and taping "SCTV" by night. It is that same flexibility — both literal and figurative — that Martin displays as Berthe.
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