Original 'Annie' Returns to Show 30 Years Later
By John Mitchell Posted Jul 26th 2010 06:00PM
The 46-year-old actress is currently starring as Miss Hannigan in a production of the Great Depression-set musical for the North Carolina Theatre Co., playing a nasty orphanage matron who gives her former character a tough time. "It's a strange thing; it's a powerful thing," she told Al Roker on the 'Today' show of returning to the play. "I have a lot to live up to, and especially in this production – this is part of my legacy."
McArdle assumed the titular role of Annie at just 13 when she was plucked from the chorus during rehearsals to replace Kristin Vigard, who had been originally cast in the lead role. Born in Philadelphia, McArdle studied dance as a child. She was soon spotted by a talent agent and began working in commercials and soap operas.
Her role in the Broadway hit landed her a Tony nomination, and she remains the youngest actress ever to land a nod for a leading role. Ironically, she lost to her co-star, Dorothy Loudon, who played Miss Hannigan in the original production. "I've waited all my life to play a woman like Miss Hannigan," McArdle said. "I was like the ingénue du jour for quite some time, and I've played every girl next door and, you know, all of the romantic leads ... so, I've always wanted to play characters, always."
Letting go of her one-time character has been a challenge though. "It's a bizarre thing," she said of wanting to sing along to her old solos. "I have to really, really focus, heightened focus, to not, you know, slip back in it."
Just a year after her star-making performance on the New York stage, McArdle left to launch the show in London's West End. She has maintained a successful theater career since, starring on Broadway and in a national touring production of 'Les Misérables,' in regional productions of 'Grease,' 'Evita' and 'Annie Get Your Gun,' and in an international tour of 'Cabaret.'
McArdle was well aware of the expectations that came with her return to 'Annie.' "This was a giant chunk of my adolescence, a giant chunk of my life," she told Roker. "It's still following me around. I think I needed to get older and definitely not be an ingénue anymore, so I feel really lucky to have this chance."
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