As theatergoers, we tend to think of performers from specific roles that we’ve seen them in.
No matter what else she does in her career, Andrea McArdle will forever be the title character in “Annie,” even though that was a role she played as a child 36 years ago and there have been plenty of other parts in the years since then.
For many fans, Faith Prince will always be Adelaide, her Tony Award-winning role in a highly regarded 1992 revival of “Guys and Dolls,” even though she’s earned other Tony nominations and done numerous other musicals and screen roles.
Obviously, there is usually far more to such performers than single roles that we once loved, and they get to reveal different aspects of their lives or interests when they perform in concerts or cabarets. It’s one place where performers can be themselves (or some semblance of that).
You can learn a lot about both these terrific artists in two new recordings released by Broadway Records, which has launched a series of cabaret performance recordings, primarily from the New York club 54 Below.
That’s where McArdle’s “70s and Sunny” was recorded live, a showcase of songs from the 1970s, mixed with stories of growing up in that era while she starred on Broadway.
The concert and recording give her the opportunity to sing pop songs that she never got to sing at the time. She jokes that whenever she was asked to sing outside of “Annie,” the requests were always for old songs like “The Man That Got Away,” “The Man I Love” or “My Funny Valentine.”
“I could get the notes out but I had no clue what I was talking about or singing about,” she says early on in the recording. She was too young to understand the lyrics.
Her voice remains bright and vibrant, tinged with melancholy at times or joy, as she performs such songs as “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “Angry Young Man,” “I Believe in Love” and “Got to be There,” along with such Broadway songs as “Nothing,” Jerry Herman’s “Wherever He Ain’t,” Marvin Hamlisch’s “Fallin’” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive.”
At one point, she shares advice from her “Jerry’s Girls” co-star Carol Channing, who overheard her once complaining about having to sing “Tomorrow” over and over again. Channing reminded her how lucky she is to have a “signature” song that everyone recognizes. She then launches into a nice mature version of the song.
Prince’s CD, “Total Faith: Live from the Royal Room at The Colony,” was recorded in 2010 at the Palm Beach night spot. It features numbers she performed while she was in Sarasota for the Artists Series in February. But there’s plenty of other material that makes it both familiar and new.
While McArdle sounds light and funny, Prince makes you want to become her best friend. She’s got a super voice, a terrific sense of humor and spot-on musical instincts (helped, no doubt, by her musical director Alex Rybeck, who joined her in Sarasota).
You get to know her right off in an opening medley in which she sings songs from her Broadway past (“Guys and Dolls,” “Bells are Ringing” and “The King and I”) while wandering around the room talking to audience members. And then there’s the song “Shy” from “Once Upon a Mattress,” which tells you a lot about her. She’s anything but shy.
The recording includes a memorable mix of “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour,” two songs she might have originated in “Little Shop of Horrors,” if she hadn’t been committed to a trade show. But then there might not have been Adelaide.
There also is a funny story about her experiences with the show “Scrambled Feet” and an impressive version of Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
I’d pick up the check for that meal.
Jay Handelman is the theater critic for the Herald-Tribune and chairman of the American Theatre Critics Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to “like” Arts Sarasota on Facebook, Follow me on twitter at twitter.com/jayhandelman.