- CHARITY BENEFIT
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons
In 1977, when Andrea McArdle landed the title role in Annie, she was 12 years old. Thirty-five years later, she is still going strong, as was more than evident at The “Broad” Way, her show at 54 Below ( 254 West 54 Street).
McCardle strode onto the stage belting “Native New York,” then, surveying the room and the audience said, “New York needed a place like this yesterday.” Judging by the applause, most people seemed to agree.
The recently opened club is a magnificently renovated space below the former Studio 54, a famous hot spot during the seventies. Perhaps in tribute to this piece of history, many of the songs McArdle sang were from that decade.
McArdle began the evening in an unusual way: she immediately introduced her four-piece band (Dillon Kondor on guitar, Ray Marchica on drums/percussion and Mary Ann McSweeney on bass, directed by pianist/arranger/conductor Steve Marzullo) “because they’re just that fabulous.”
The evening was truly a celebration of Broadway. McArdle’s songs were from the Broadway shows she’s starred in: “Where Is Love” and “As Long As He Needs Me” from Oliver, “Wherever He Ain’t” from Jerry’s Girls and of course “Tomorrow” from Annie. But she also sang numbers from other Broadway shows: “Nothing” from A Chorus Line, “I Believe in Love” from A Star Is Born, and “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife.
If many of the songs in McArdle’s repertoire were made popular during the 60s,70s and 80s, there was at least one welcome surprise. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” with music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, was written for the 1951 film Here Comes the Groom. There were also songs not associated with Broadway, such as “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me),” Tevin Campbell’s first number-one R&B single.
Throughout the evening, McArdle’s powerful alto voice never flagged, nor did the singer’s energy. McArdle has the confidence that comes with growing up on the stage.
Her final number was “Over the Rainbow,” a song generally associated with the legendary Judy Garland. McArdle did play Garland in the 1978 made for TV film Rainbow. Nevertheless, even Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, refuses to tackle the song her mother made famous. For McArdle to do so takes moxie and the talent to back it up.