In the swirl of holiday shows to hit South Jersey this season, one stands out as particularly promising. Broadway superstar Andrea McArdle will join forces with the Bay Atlantic Symphony for a festive show that will combine the powerful voice of the former with the enchanting orchestral sounds of the latter. See it for yourself 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at Borgata’s Music Box Theater. Here are some fast facts about the BAS and McArdle, before their joint performance.
The Bay Atlantic Symphony has been a pillar in the South Jersey arts scene for years, providing top-notch orchestral performances and educational programs for many musicians in the area.
As the orchestra in residence for Stockton University, the Landis Theater, the Free Public Library of Avalon and the Cape May Music Festival, BAS has planted its roots all over the area. Led by Musical Director Jed Gaylin, BAS has performed with the likes of pianist Yuja Wang, flutist Eugenia Zuckerman and, recently, internationally acclaimed violinist Esther Yoo. It now adds Tony Award-nominee Andrea McArdle to that list.
Not your average ingénue
Not surprisingly, the doe-eyed role of Annie has followed McArdle around even in her adult life. Though happy to be associated with such an iconic role, McArdle admits to preferring roles with a bit more grit, casting off her good-girl persona. Roles like Fantine in “Les Miserables” and Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” have shown the darker side of McArdle.
“The past really does follow you in this business, so there’s been a lot of girls next door,” she says. “I’ve played Sandy (in ‘Grease’) a ton of times, but everyone who knows me knows I’m a Rizzo.”
Keeping things local
Earlier this year in August, McArdle lent her talent to the Gateway Playhouse, to celebrate its monumental opening after going dark for 10 years due to lack of funding.
McArdle was recruited for the event by Keith Cooper executive director of the Gateway, and his partner Kelly Briggs, whom she met while working on a regional production of “Hello Dolly.” McArdle has kept off the main stages of Broadway in recent years, opting instead to support regional theaters in roles where her talent can truly shine.
“The pendulum has swung. It’ll swing back, but to do the roles that I want to do on Broadway you have to be a TV or a movie star,” McArdle explains of her work off-Broadway. “I played Belle (‘Beauty and the Beast’) at 38 and most of them are 24, and Sally Bowles (‘Cabaret’) at 43. I do regional because you’re playing to like 2,500 seats and you’re getting great direction and working with incredible talent. I’m not old enough for anyone to cast me in ‘Mame’ or ‘Hello Dolly’ yet on Broadway, so in order to keep my chops up and play these roles, I can go to regional theaters.”
Andrea McArdle is known to many as the originator of the titular role in the Broadway smash hit “Annie.” The musical is now canonical in the theater world, having been revised in New York several times, adapted into three different movies and performed around the country — and world — in professional and local productions numerous times over.
McArdle was just 14 when “Annie” made the big time, and her soaring voice would become familiar to thousands of children, many of whom credit McArdle and “Annie” as sparking their love of musical theater.
Since then, McArdle has starred in shows like “Les Miserables,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Meet Me in St. Louis,” as well as in television and movies. She also teaches master classes to help a new generation learn the performance skills that made her such a star.
“I’m all about the kids — I always say if you want to know the truth, ask somebody really old or really young,” McArdle said in a previous interview with A.C. Weekly. “I love that (‘Annie’) is still a pertinent piece of theater. I’ve had people like Fergie and Harry Connick Jr. say they love it. Billy Joel, who’s one of my idols, said his daughter learned to sing from it.”