Andrea McArdle's Agent Dropped Her After She Joined Starlight Express

Seth Rudetsky   Andrea McArdle's Agent Dropped Her After She Joined Starlight Express
 
Plus, this week Seth joins Mandy Gonzalez and Kerry Butler at MetLife Stadium for a live performance.
in <i>Starlight Express</i>
Robert Torti with Mary Ann Lamb, Nicole Picard, Reva Rice, Lola Knox, Jane Krakowski, Christina Youngman, and Andrea McArdle in Starlight Express Martha Swope

James, Juli, and I are on our first flight since March 2020. We are fully vaxxed and ready for action. We’re flying into L.A. where we’ll meet up with Jack Plotnick and then we’re all going to drive down to Palm Desert to see my Dad (who just turned 90!). But before my California adventure, I want to write about some fun Broadway things I’ve done, like interviewing Spamalot star Hank Azaria for Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM radio show. We first began by talking about the recent launch of The Jim Brockmire Podcast, inspired by the TV show of the same name, starring Azaria as a disgraced former sportscaster. Here’s the raunchy/super-funny backstory.

In it, he does actual interviews, but it’s like Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick, meaning he’s constantly and hilariously insulting his guests. I could not believe what he said to Charles Barkley. He was talking to the NBA all-star about all the money Charles bets and the basketball player retorted with and…well, you’ll have to check out the premiere episode to find out what happened.

Hank Azaria in Monty Python's Spamalot.
Hank Azaria in Monty Python's Spamalot Joan Marcus

Hank talked about playing Lancelot and how much he loved it. He also could not believe the stamina it takes to do a Broadway show. He said that even though he’s in really good shape, he could not sing everything in his big number. He was able to sing his solo sections but every time there was group singing, he literally had to lip sync because he didn’t have enough air. So when you watch this, just know that if anyone else is singing with Hank, there is silence coming out of his mouth.

Last week, I had the amazing Andrea McArdle on my live concert series and we spent a segment on Starlight Express. If you don’t know, that’s the Andrew Lloyd Webber show that had everyone playing a train while being on roller-skates the entire time. It was also the next Broadway show Andrea did after Annie. She was originally cast as Pearl and her boyfriend in the show was going to be played by the late great Greg Burge. However, he thought the physicality of skating (and falling, which happened often, according to Andrea) would ruin his dancing career so he ixnayed doing it.

Robert Torti and company in Starlight Express.
Robert Torti and company in Starlight Express. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

They replaced him with Robert Torti and the creative team wanted to keep it an interracial relationship, so they cast Reva Rice as Pearl and moved Andrea to Ashley, the smoking car. Andrea said that Reva was amazing as Pearl and it was perfect casting. However, Andrea was with William Morris at the time and they did not want her to do Starlight—but Andrea wanted to do an ensemble show. She loved doing Annie, but her favorite section of the show was always “Hard Knock Life” because she was singing and dancing with the other girls. She wanted a whole show of that. She took the part…and William Morris dropped her!

As for Greg Burge’s prediction, a few months into the run, she fell while skating and fractured her cheekbone. She did not tell her Mom who had been nervous about her doing the show, but she did have to be on the Tony Awards with her fractured cheekbone. They put lots of makeup on it so the bruise wouldn’t show, but her mother knew something was up. She asked Andrea why the camera was filming her from so far away. “I mean, you’re not old! Why couldn’t they come up close?,” she said. A mother always knows. You can see clips of Andrea (and her fabulous co-stars…like Jane Krakowski as Dinah) skating here.

We had a reunion of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood on Stars in the House and found out some fun info. When the show was transferring from the Delacorte Theater in Central Park to Broadway, Rupert Holmes (who wrote the book, music, and lyrics, and orchestrated it!) was told that people were nervous it would lose some of the intimacy it had while playing in the park. So, he thought up the opening number where the stars begin the show in the audience, introducing themselves. They wound up doing that part on the Tony Awards—watch it here.

Andy Karl, Gregg Edelman, Jessie Mueller, and Betsy Wolfe in <i>The Mystery of Edwin Drood</i>
Andy Karl, Gregg Edelman, Jessie Mueller, and Betsy Wolfe in The Mystery of Edwin Drood Joan Marcus

Rupert also talked about the finale “The Writing on the Wall.” He wrote it to end on a B (the fifth of the chord) because he never imagined anyone would end the song on the tonic (a high E). Well, when they did the reading of the show, Betty Buckley felt inspired and surprised everyone by going up to the E! Rupert flipped out and kept it in the show. Betty told us that it didn’t seem that big of a deal to her, but when the number was staged, the cast was turned towards her right before the note, and she would see a look of panic and anticipation on their faces. It made it much more nerve-wracking to sing—but I keep seeing amazing clips online of her doing the E and sounding incredible, so I guess nerves didn’t get the best of her. Here is my deconstruction of her brilliance.

My favorite Drood story involved someone I won’t mention by name, but it was someone who either replaced or understudied one of the key roles in the show. If you don’t know, the audience votes at the end of every show to decide who murdered Edwin Drood. It’s a bit of a popularity contest and the actors in the show always want to win. Well, this particular actor was frustrated she never won, and she decided it was because she wasn’t in one of the group numbers. She was told she was not in that number, nor would she ever be. So, that night, the number happened as usual, but in the back of the set was a window and the actress spent the entire number peering in from behind the window, with a scowl on her face. She assumed the audience would see her angry face and vote her the killer. It didn’t happen. After the show, the actress was told that, again, she is not in the number and furthermore, it makes no difference if she scowls behind the window because there is no light on that part of the set. Her scowl was ensconced in darkness and nobody in the audience could see it. The actress took note and the next night, again, appeared in the window with her signature murderous scowl. But this time, she “solved” the lighting problem but scowling and holding a flashlight underneath her face! (P.S. she was still not voted the murderer.)

Seth Rudetsky, Mandy Gonzalez, and Kerry Butler
Seth Rudetsky, Mandy Gonzalez, and Kerry Butler Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

Back to nowadays: Last week, I made my way to the MetLife stadium for a small but fabulous concert sponsored by CLEAR. It is the amazing thing I signed up for a few years ago with James and Juli that allows you to scan your eyes so you can skip the line at airports. We love it! Anyhoo, CLEAR had reunited families that had been separated due to the COVID-19 pandemic by giving them flights to meet up with each other and then celebrate with our show, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. I performed with Kerry Butler and Mandy Gonzales—check us out posing before the show.

Here we are celebrating being vaccinated and not having to wear a mask to sing. And here’s a clip of some of the amazing belting. We had such a great time and it was so nice to be performing together, safely (outdoors and socially distanced from each other).

My concert series is still going strong, and this coming Sunday, I have Tony winner Laura Benanti with her mom, Linda! When Linda got pregnant, she gave up her Broadway career, but she did keep up her singing and became Laura’s teacher, hence her amazing voice. See them both by getting tix at TheSethConcertSeries.com. Here’s my Obsessed with Laura, showing her hilarious humor and amazing singing. Peace out!

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