BWW Review: ANDREA MCARDLE Soars to New Heights at The Green Room 42
Nobody sings like Andrea McArdle.
Boasting a sweet, husky, show-stopping belt - like a siren from the Great White Way (and like the Mermans and Martins who came before her) McArdle's is a voice singular and utterly unique; the kind of instrument you have to hear but only a couple of notes of on a song to know instantly - unmistakably, who is singing it. A household name since the age of thirteen (back when Broadway could still generate such a thing) she's also the kind of theatrical legend that, despite her ever fit, trim and youthful constitution, is in some ways the last from a Golden Era of musical theatre. When McArdle speaks (with delicious candor and shrewd perspective) of the luminaries that shaped, molded, and gifted her with her career, the names that pour forth (Lansbury, Channing, Liberace...) harken back not only to a different time, but when to be a star of the stage was simply a different persuasion.
Of course, best known as Broadway's first (and inimitable) ANNIE, McArdle has forged an adult career that has seen her in television and tackling a variety of classic leading lady roles both in New York and regionally. A frequent fixture of the cabaret scene, recent appearances have embraced everything from the pop landscape of the 1970's, to a shared act (of Sondheim and Hamlisch) with Donna McKechnie, but in her first appearance at The Green Room 42, in a concert showcasing a musical return to many of the classic roles from her roots (with some theatrical Christmas zing thrown in) Andrea McArdle seems especially relaxed and at home. In sensational, undiminished voice, and possessing the same pluck and tomboy spunk (albeit with an added healthy dose of sex appeal) that catapulted her to fame forty years ago, hers is a case for nostalgia meeting now with a frank and effortless charm and terrific musicality.
Working from a perfectly tailored set list (and masterfully arranged for piano by Steve Marzullo) McArdle is, not surprisingly, a natural with showstoppers first introduced by Judy Garland (whom McArdle played in the television film, Rainbow) and classic material by Irving Berlin and Charles Strouse, but that she finds unexpected pathos and musical dexterity tackling more complicated material by Arlen and Mercer ("I Had Myself a True Love"), Bramlett and Russell ("Superstar") and most especially, Jerry Herman with a dynamic and conflicted "If He Walked Into My Life" is a welcome revelation.
The kind of fabulous raconteur who really should be working on a memoir, McArdle revisits a Manhattan, whose landscape has changed as much as its theatre stars, with a brassy spin on the Times Square of her youth ( "New York, New York" and "NYC") complete with tales of a less-than-glamorous Macy Day Thanksgiving Day Parade, and fairy tale intervention from the likes of John Lennon.
Offering emotional (and hilariously human) tributes to two mentors who passed this year: Carol Channing (who starred with McArdle in the revue, JERRY'S GIRLS) and Martin Charnin (the conceiver of what seemed like an inconceivable musical about a redhead in a red dress) McArdle's take on "Before the Parade Passes By" and (what Channing referred to as her 'shig-naturh song') "Tomorrow," combine thrilling vocals with what seems to be new depth as an interpreter; the nostaliga here, again, at once plush and newly nuanced
Opening the act, naturally with 'Broadway Baby," McArdle is, of course, the epitome of the ultimate show biz kid. But here, returning to her beginnings and those inspirations, both in life and in the songs she is closest to, Andrea McArdle proves not only is she grown up, but a Broadway Baby liberated. And never better because of it.
Follow Andrea McArdle at @mcbwaybaby
Photographs by Stephen Mosher