Tomorrow is today. Andrea McArdle’s perception of the difference between 1977 on the stage of “Annie” is “half a step” when asked after her opening night performance of her 70′s inspired show, “70′s And Sunny,” at 54 Below. Thirty-six years later, Annie has grown up but still has that same youthful enthusiasm. Her frilly black lace mini-dress and spike heels, reminiscent of the teenager in the 70′s who hung out upstairs at Studio 54, was a bit of a distraction from her outstanding vocals when she belted out familiar tunes, her long wavy red hair swinging. She admitted always being sensitive to “Tomorrow,” fearing people thought it was the only song she knew. If you’re one of those folks, this show proved otherwise.
Following her opening number, “Native New Yorker,” where she screamed the lyrics over the exploding percussion, she talked about “entering the business totally backwards” hitting fame early. She did songs from some of the Broadway hits of the 70′s including “I Still Believe in Love” (from “They’re Playing Our Song”) like she meant it. “If He Really Knew Me” and “Fallin’” from the same show were high energy and well-done. She recalled the magic of her earlier life between 52nd Street, where Annie opened, and 54th, where she hung out at the legendary Studio 54 with Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol and Michael Jackson. The superstar came to her 14th birthday party.
McArdle has an incredible voice but the show lacks variety of both sound and at times, depth of passion. Her chatter of 70′s memories is amusing but she could skip the far from perfect Carol Channing impersonation.
One of her strongest numbers, with excellent piano arrangement by Steve Marzullo, was “Rainy Days and Mondays.” She recalled that the Karen Carpenter recording was one of the first she ever bought; hence it meant a lot to her. Her other musicians included bassist Mary Ann McSweeney, guitarist Simon Kafka and drummer Ray Marchica. McArdle does a fabulous rendition of “Meadowlark” from “Baker’s Wife,” a good job with a tune from “Mack and Mabel,” and Michael Jackson’s “Got To Be There” was superb and “almost in a key that only dogs hear” as McArdle quipped.
She has two more performances at 54 Below, tonight Friday, 1/18 and Saturday, 1/19, 8:30 PM. For reservations, call 866-468-7619.