The original star of the Broadway smash hit Annie, Andrea McArdle, has grown into a mature and super-talented singer who can belt with the best of them. At The Kennedy Center’s Barbara Cook’s Spotlight Series concert last night, Ms. McArdle thrilled the audience with a succession of songs and lively patter that showed she is a musical force to be reckoned with.
Wearing a striking and elegant black pantsuit, McArdle strode lithely onto the intimate Terrace Theater and launched into a sprightly and up-tempo version of the beloved classic song “A Lot of Livin’ to Do.” Accompanied by Music Director Steve Marzullo on Piano, McArdle sang with a sweet purity of tone that enthralled the captive audience and me.
McArdle has had a long and varied career on Broadway and touring from such diverse fare as Les Miserables, Jerry’s Girls, State Fair, and Beauty and the Beast. This vast experience showed in each and every facet of this stunning showcase for McArdle’s prodigious talent.
A lovely rendition of “It Might as Well Be Spring” was delivered with McArdle’s clear, clarion-like tones – each word and every phrase is delivered with such crisply- etched diction which is such a pleasure to hear in the current musical climate.
McArdle then launched into a whimsical yet defiant mood as she essayed Stephen Sondheim’s wonderful anthem of the rebellious spirit, “Everybody Says Don’t!”.
A high point of McArdle’s set was a spirited and almost – conversational rendition of Johnny Mercer’s “In the Cool of the Evening.” McArdle wisely chose to deliver a very animated version of this song and she elucidated every word with verve and gusto.
McArdle told the crowd how much she loved appearing in Les Miserables and, then, proceeded to sing a heartrending and poignant rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.” Indeed one could almost believe that the character of Victor Hugo’s Fantine was in the Terrace Theater. McArdle sang softly in cadence –like rhythms full of idealistic hopes –only to subvert the idealism by building to a shattering climax of fully-realized despair. McArdle’s sense of despair was very appropriate to the character.
Theatrical aficionados were treated to McArdle’s cover of the musically challenging song “Meadowlark” from Stephen Schwartz’s show The Baker’s Wife. Next she offered a startlingly fresh and audacious presentation of this somewhat lengthy and picaresque song. She was even more successful than other renditions I have heard before in conveying the myriad moods of this almost-epic song.
McArdle delighted the crowd with two superb songs from Meet Me in St. Louis, namely “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The former was sung with proper zip and theatrical flourish while the latter was delivered with just the right touch of quivering hope mixed with melancholy.
A very creative medley of Billy Joel’s “You’re My Home” and the classic song “Home” from The Wiz were conjoined beautifully and delivered with panache and style by McArdle. Her full-throated belting in “Home” sent chills down the spine.
McArdle’s signature song from Annie—“Tomorrow” was a winner and was creatively preceded in a medley with the classic standard “Look for the Silver Lining.” Hope —whether denied, thwarted, or fully-realized seemed to be a continuous theme throughout the concert.
For her fully-deserved encore, McArdle sang a haunting rendition of a song that might have the most glorious melody in the history of song — “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Andrea McArdle is a musical magician of song!
Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Barbara Cook’s Spotlight: Andrea McArdle was performed on Friday , December 5, 2014 at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For a list oof ucoming Kennedy Center events, go to their performance calendar.