by Matt Smith
With a stage outfitted with Christmas trees and a backdrop bathed in red and green, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at The Green Room 42… and who better to help ring in the Yuletide season than singular Broadway legend Andrea McArdle?!
Simultaneously marking both her Green Room debut and her 48th year as a professional in the business, the spunky redhead with that signature song offers an eclectic show that is equal parts humor and heart, its sublime set list delivering exactly what one who reads its title would expect.
Acknowledging that Christmas music is excessively “shoved down our throats” throughout the entirety of November through early January,she forgoes heavily promoting the repertoire in favor of singing from her esteemed theatrical catalogue. While regaling us with tales from the theatrical Golden Age of yore, including a chance encounter with Paul McCartney, a terrifying Macy’s Parade mixup, and unparalleled mentorship from the likes of Martin Charnin and Carol Channing (the latter complete with a naturally spot-on impression), she lends her entrancing and unmistakably distinguishable timbre to such showbiz staples as “Broadway Baby,” “As Long as He Needs Me,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” and — perhaps the most powerful and emotionally stirring, both for her and, as a result, the audience — “If He Walked Into My Life.”
But then again, ’tis the season, so we’re treated to a few topical medleys and park-and-barks, courtesy of Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, and Charlie Brown, to name a few — all to put us in the mindset of the most wonderful time of the year. Others, while not necessarily associated with the holiday, per se, helped to promote themes pertinent to the season: Oliver’s “Where is Love?,” for example, endorsing the titular topic, and “Put a Happy Face” from Bye, Bye Birdie, urging us to “brush off the clouds and cheer up” ahead of the joyous 25th day of December.
And of course, no McArdle gig is complete without that particular song of hope, with its singer optimistic toward a certain change in the weather. And sure, she casually complains of that “stupid red dress and fright wig of Bozo hair,” the number seemingly contaminating her repertoire for the better part of the last 40 years, but she does admit, in light of the holidays, Charnin’s recent passing, and its overall enduring capacity to continually empower women of all ages and ethnicities even after all these years, she’s truly, eternally grateful for such a stellar signature song.
Of note, her intense adoration of Judy Garland (which she notes initially stemmed from playing a younger version of the icon in the 1978 biopic Rainbow) clearly influences her choices, both theatrical and otherwise, as she fills her roster with the greats: “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” “Lose that Long Face,” the Garland-famous “Trolley Song,” and, aptly, to end the evening, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
All in all, thanks to relatable patter and the venue’s cozy ambience, it’s truly an intimate evening with Andrea in the fullest sense of the word. Her wry back-and-forth with the audience, impeccably quick wit while bantering with expert musical director and pianist Steve Marzullo, and the refreshing ability to laugh at herself unashamedly when she flubs a lyric (hey, it happens), present her as a warm, personable everywoman you can’t help but feel comfortable around. And why? Because you know she knows she wants you to feel comfortable, and it makes the vibrant, buzzy environment that much more laid-back and homey.
As its title suggests, it’s not 100% Broadway nor a 100% seasonal, but, one thing’s for sure: regardless of genre, it’s perfectly pure Andrea McArdle all the way. The holidays, while joyous and festive, may be stressful and difficult for many folks, sending loss, loneliness, and other emotions traditionally taboo to talk about bubbling up to the surface. Rest assured that no matter your circumstances, McArdle holds the deliciously decadent recipe to eradicate those blues for an hour and change. And, if you’re truly struggling and find that even that isn’t enough to pull you out of your festive-less funk on this, or any, day of the year, just close your eyes, take a breath, and remember, as the spunky redhead would articulate, the sun’ll always come out tomorrow.
Photos: Stephen Mosher
Andrea McArdle: Broadway with a Little Holiday played the Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Ave.) on December 15th and 20th. For more information, visit www.thegreenroom42.poptix.com.