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Interview: Andrea McArdle Returns to the Stage for a Holiday Concert at Kean University

The streaming show, presented by Kean Stage, will run December 17-20.

Beloved Broadway vet Andrea McArdle will toast the holiday season with a newly filmed concert presented by Kean Stage at Kean University. The show, which features holiday classics alongside popular showtunes (including one or two signature numbers from McArdle's Broadway debut, Annie), will be streamed for five performances, December 17-20, and marks the first time that both McArdle and musical director Steve Marzullo have performed since the pandemic began. Though McArdle says she did feel a little "out-of-practice," the consummate professional always puts on an incredible show, and this one is no different.

Andrea McArdle
(© Wayne J. Gmitter)

What can audiences expect from this new concert?
It's basically my regular act, but it's a Christmas show. I sing six Christmas songs, and there's Broadway and standards and a little pop. We had a gorgeous Steinway, the sound was great, the Enlow Recital Hall is a gorgeous theater, everybody at Kean was fantastic, and it was the strangest thing I've ever done. [laughs]

Because there was no audience?
Yeah! To not feed off the crowd? That is what a thespian signs up for. I had to sing to no applause, no reaction. I did have a friend of mine in the audience, and Steve Cochran, our producer, and the guy behind the camera. But that was it. And this show was the first time since the pandemic started that I had performed at all — it's the longest I've gone since I was 9 years old. I felt so off my game, like a baseball player out-of-practice. But I know I'm not alone there.

Did you miss performing?
I didn't realize how much I personally took it for granted, because it was always there. I got very lucky early in my career and was presented with a lot of opportunities. So this was bizarre. You do take your skills for granted. It really made me feel like a newbie, a fish out of water.

When you're creating a Christmas concert, how do you choose a set list from the wealth of material that's out there?
I try to keep it as theater-based and straightforward as possible. I always start with my basic act, and if it's holiday time, we pull some songs out and rearrange the order. We open with "Christmastime Is Here" and "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," then I go into some Broadway stuff, and then we do the Ella Fitzgerald version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and we close with "White Christmas" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

It seems like a particularly good time to do "Tomorrow" from Annie.
That's exactly what I say in the show before I sing it. I pair "Tomorrow" with "Before the Parade Passes By," because if there is ever a time when you need songs like that, about hope and inspiration, it's right now.


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