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Review: ‘2 Across’

December 9th, 2015 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

2 AcrossNo need, it seems, for Internet dating, singles bars, or expensive cruises. If Jerry Mayer’s romantic comedy, 2 Across, is any indication, it’s still possible to meet and fall in love in an hour and a half in the most unlikely of places, like, for example, the 4:30 a.m. BART train from San Francisco International Airport on its way to Bay Point. That, at least, is the dreamy conceit of this fluffy two-hander, a play that’s already had multiple American and European productions; it’s the kind of thing you might expect to see at your local dinner theatre but that’s now playing three days a week at Off Broadway’s St. Luke’s Theatre.

The play sometimes goes too far in stretching credibility, but, as effortlessly performed by two appealingly attractive pros, one of them former child star Andrea McArdle (Broadway’s original Annie), 2 Across is the theatrical equivalent of an ice cream sundae, even providing a cherry of a treat at the end: not very nutritious, but no problem getting it down.

Mayer, a successful TV writer and producer (“M*A*S*H,” “All in the Family,” etc.) zings his way through this duologue set in a BART car (replicated by designer Scott Heineman) and showing an attractive, middle-aged woman, Janet (McArdle), returning home unhappily after seeing off her 18-year-old, high school-dropout son, who’s joined the Marines. She tries to bury her blues in a crossword puzzle, but the only other passenger, the middle-aged Josh (Kip Gilman), happens to be working on the same one; a friendly, garrulous type, he can’t help butting in. Janet resists (even showing her can of mace) but, soon enough, a tenuous relationship takes root between the wedding band-wearing pair.

Kip Gilman and Andrea McArdle in '2 Across' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Kip Gilman and Andrea McArdle in ‘2 Across’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Janet is a psychologist who’s so uptight about breaking rules that, despite her hunger, she refuses to eat a sandwich Josh proffers, because eating on the train is forbidden. Josh, a former actor and ad executive, is unemployed but the prospect looms of a good job at Banana Republic. She’s a Catholic, he’s a Jew—yes, here come those jokes.

As the stops along the way are announced, crossword talk helps explain each character’s dominant traits, chemistry bubbles into osculation, personal secrets are exposed, and eHarmony loses a couple of potential customers. Most of this is predictable stuff made amusing by the actors’ charm; even that, however, isn’t always enough to overcome strained plot devices, like the one involving Josh’s discovering that Janet’s carrying a library copy of Petrarch’s love sonnets. She hasn’t had a chance to read the book, and insists she must return it because it’s due and there’s a waiting list for it (!?!); wouldn’t you know it, but Josh just happens to be a Petrarch buff. He so moves her with his lesson on the Renaissance master and his reading of the poems that Janet decides to hold on to the tome for a bit. Note to Janet: used copies can be bought online for a song. And what of all those dictionaries and an atlas she lugs around? Never heard of a smart phone?

Andrea McArdle and Kip Gilman in '2 Across.' (Photo:  Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Andrea McArdle and Kip Gilman in ‘2 Across.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

2 Across isn’t It Happened One Night and McArdle and Gilman aren’t Colbert and Gable, but both are easy to watch and believably grounded. Under the direction of Evelyn Rudie, the acting favors simple honesty over overt histrionics, but one does wait for a few sparks to fly. McArdle, trim as a gym rat in a form-fitting black dress and tights, her abundant red hair perfectly coiffed, is a bit too glammed up, but she convincingly conveys Janet’s intelligence and motherly concerns. Gilman, a loose amalgam of Bill Pullman and a younger Robert De Niro, makes the most of his nice Jewish guy shtick, and Josh’s demonstrations of his acting chops click nicely.

When the play ends, the stars reappear to offer the show’s biggest takeaway, a duet of “It Had to Be You,” with McArdle demonstrating why, at St. Luke’s, this fabulous Broadway baby is so near yet so far from where she really belongs.

2 Across
St. Luke’s Theatre
308 West 46th Street, NYC
Through January 31

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

That’s Cabaret: Andrea McArdle Gives an Energetic and Upbeat Performance in San Francisco

August 24th, 2013 Comments off

Contributor Heather Cassell is delighted by Broadway great Andrea McArdle’s latest cabaret offering. 

Andrea McArdle

Andrea McArdle

Tony-nominated Andrea McArdle greeted the full house at Feinstein’s inside the Nikko Hotel with an energetic song, as she made her way onto the stage and belted “Native New Yorker” to a lively audience.

The crowd at times burst into song along with McArdle, who at 49-years old  is as spunky and upbeat as ever. She enjoyed performing along with musical director Steve Marzullo as much as the audience enjoyed listening to the music and stories she told in between songs from 70’s and Sunny: Live At 54 Below. McArdle’s latest release, her first from the Broadway Records label recorded live at 54 BELOW (254 West 54th Street), is what she calls a “verbal journal” of her youth as a showbiz kid in 1970s New York City.

The album’s songs are a mix of favorites from the 70s that made her want to sing, from “Rainy Days and Mondays” to obscure Broadway show tunes, such as “Fallin’,” which never even made it into a show. Of course the album also features “Tomorrow,” the iconic ballad from Annie that set off McArdle’s illustrious career.

She wrapped up the show with an encore tribute to San Francisco featuring “The Trolley Song” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Her voice is impeccable and youthful, even after hours of rehearsal and what she calls “texture” from age. With a voice so pure and true, McArdle hit every note effortlessly, as if singing is the most natural thing in the world. Between songs and while interacting with both the audience and Marzullo at the piano, she shared her memories of growing up around stars such as Carol Channing, Liberace and many more.

The show is delightful and entertaining, the epitome of cabaret. McArdle is a perfect performer who knows her music and clearly loves performing. This is a good time out on the town that should not be missed.

McArdle performs again tonight (August 24, 2013) at Feinstein’s at the Hotel Nikko (222 Mason St., 415-394-1111) in San Francisco at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 – $55.

Heather Cassell is a freelance journalist and travel writer with more than 20 years experience covering LGBT and women’s issues. When Heather isn’t wandering off learning and writing about women’s and LGBT issues, she covers business, health and other news for a number of publications as well as the syndicated “Out in the World” international LGBT news column.

70s and Sunny: An Interview with Andrea McArdle

August 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Contributor Heather Cassell rolls back the clock and looks toward the future with Broadway legend Andrea McArdle. 

Andrea McArdle's new CD, "70's and Sunny," was recorded live at 54 Below in New York City.

Andrea McArdle’s new CD, “70’s and Sunny,” was recorded live at 54 Below in New York City.

Broadway star and Tony-nominated actor and singer Andrea McArdle fell in love with music in her family’s Philadelphia home. She would tune her parents’ two stereos to her favorite stations and sing along to the decade’s greatest hits.

“We were somewhat music freaks, very eclectic taste. That’s what really gave me my love of music,” recalls McArdle, whose family didn’t have a television until she was 7-years-old.

Nearly 40 years later, McArdle is paying tribute to the music that shaped her childhood and Broadway career.

“These are all of the songs that really hit me so hard that made me want to sing,” says McArdle, 49, about the 14 songs that create  70’s and Sunny: Live At 54 BELOW, her new album from Broadway Records.

The CD was recorded at 54 BELOW (254 WEst 54th Street) in New York at the beginning of this year and released April 9. Its cover celebrating the 70s with its campy photo of McArdle sipping Tab with a straw out of the iconic can.

The lineup of songs includes her pop favorites from the 1970s, such as “Rainy Days and Mondays”, which was also the title of the first 45 record she bought when she was a kid, and her own Broadway hits, like “Tomorrow.”

McArdle, the original Annie on Broadway, modeled her famous song, “Tomorrow,” after 1970s pop stars.“I’ve always approached Broadway like a 70s male pop singer,” says McArdle, laughing.

That song she so famously belted as the little redheaded Depression-era orphan Annie has since become an American classic. It earned her a 1977 Tony Award nomination for a leading role in a musical. Annie also took her on the road to London where she launched the show’s West End production.

It was the first in a career of playing spunky, headstrong, independent women on and off Broadway that have been her trademark and taken her around the world. Since then she has played Mama Rose in Gypsy, Sally Bowles in Cabaret and Eva Peron in Evita , among others. There isn’t a moment she regrets. Her world was just as exciting as the music.

“It was fun taking a trip down memory lane,” McArdle tells The Broadway Blog. The music was “just poetry and art” recalling the writing that made 70s music, “just really great pop writing.”

“It was exactly what the 70s were. It was dirty and innocent compared to now, but I remember New York [being] really seedy, probably like a night in Bangkok,” she continues.

San Francisco audiences will get a chance to catch McArdle’s trip down the gritty streets of 70s New York through her personal soundtrack live Aug. 23 and 24 at Feinstein’s at the Nikko (222 Mason St., 415-394-1111).

Take the jump for an insider look at Andrea McArdle next recording project and a vintage clip from her performance in Annie.

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“Annie” Returns to Broadway

November 9th, 2012 Comments off

Lilla Crawford & Sunny in "Annie". Photo by Joan Marcus.

The bitch is back.

OK, technically speaking “Sandy” in Annie is a boy dog but…you get the point. And with a spanking new Broadway revival — which opened last night to solid and at times glowing reviews — the tail wagging charmer and the belting moppet are back to incite more girlish sighs and cynical eye rolls.  I mean, has there ever been a musical more beloved and simultaneously maligned (as everything horrible about relentlessly cheery, vocal chord popping musical theater) than this show? And yet…and yet the songs are damn solid — “Easy Street” is a truly dynamite number — and undeniably a part of our cultural fabric.

Who hasn’t sung “Tomorrow”–either in earnest or in jest? I’ll admit it, there are cassette tapes that exist of an eleven year old me belting out my boy soprano version in my bedroom. These recordings will remain under lock and key until 25 years after my death so don’t bother looking for them…and instead check out these amazing renditions:

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