Andrea McArdle on Her Career and Spending $1,500 for a Conversation with Frank Sinatra
Photo by Grace Rainer Long
Our dad was an ad man when we were growing up. Picture Don Draper, sans the women and booze. One perk of his job was his frequent trips to NYC to wine and dine a client and bring them to the biggest Broadway shows. And after each trip we’d get a new LP. One day in 1977, he brought home the original Broadway cast recording of Annie.
After hearing the first note come out of Andrea McArdle’s mouth, we spent the next six months driving our parents, siblings and, probably, neighbors crazy singing as loud and hard as we possibly could. And while (the sun’ll come out) “Tomorrow” was all well and good, we were more the sad but hopeful tune types. So our favorite needle drop was the brooding ballad “Maybe” followed by a rousing chorus of “It’s the Hard Knock Life.” “Empty belly life, rotten smelly life.” What’s not to love?
Just like every pre-teen girl in 1977, we wanted to be Andrea McArdle, with dreams of kicking Miss Hannigan in the shins and ice skating at Rockefeller Center with Daddy Warbucks. But, alas, our theatrical endeavors fizzled when we tried our hands at a few high school plays and realized Andrea had more talent in her pinky than we did in our two bodies combined.
But that year, her career was just getting started with Annie. Now, after over 45 years in the business, Andrea is currently starring in an Off-Broadway show called 2 Across and on January 12 will be doing a one-night only performance at the Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University. We had the pleasure of talking to Andrea about the two shows and about her storied Broadway career.
The evening at Pepperdine will be filled with her favorite songs from her childhood. She grew up in Philly in a home with two stereos and no TV. She was surrounded by music. She said, “My mother was into Bacharach and Broadway and my father was into opera and jazz. So I got the whole plethora of everything.”
Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and the big bands are her favorite songs to sing but she admitted, “My guilty pleasure is old dirty R&B. So I mix that little R&B approach to whatever I do. Those were the voices that really spoke to me.”
She continued, “I never touch a song that doesn’t speak to me. So mostly what my show is, it’s a lot of ‘70s inspired Broadway because that’s what really inspired me as I was growing up.”
Andrea McArdle’s Early Acting Career
It all began for the pint-sized Andrea when at a very young age, she switched from her Olympic-bound gymnast track to acting. She started with a string of commercials. She recalled, “The minute, even auditioning for commercials, I literally loved it. I think of it as belonging to a great hockey team or a skating team. I thought of it as a sport. I literally had $6-a-week lessons for two years and then I was a professional.”
After six months of commercials she signed a 2-year contract with CBS to do the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Foreshadowing at its best!
At 13, her small stature made the storylines very atypical for a teenage actress. She noted of her character, “I didn’t adolesce and I couldn’t have a boyfriend. So I had five fathers and six liver transplants, because I didn’t look like I could have a boyfriend.”
Still, lack of on onscreen love life aside, she e