The Palladium Presents: “4 Girls 4: Broadway’s Leading Ladies in Concert”
The Palladium // Saturday, Feb 29, 8pm
Expect an evening of song, laughter and memories when four dynamic stars of stage, screen and studio come together on the same stage. The production features Andrea McArdle (“Annie,” “Beauty and the Beast”), Maureen McGovern (“The Morning After,” “Little Women”) and Tony Award winners Donna McKechnie (“A Chorus Line,” “Company”) and Faith Prince (“Guys & Dolls,” “Bells Are Ringing”) with music direction by Billy Stritch.
When four dynamic, award-winning musical stars from Broadway, film, TV and recordings come together in concert for one night on the same stage, what transpires is an evening of song, laughter and memories. You’ll be delighted by the biggest hits from their Tony Award-winning shows and performances. Tickets are available at thecenterpresents.org.
Andrea McArdle originated the title role in “Annie” in 1977, became the youngest performer ever to be nominated for a Tony Award as Best Lead Actress in a Musical and went on to perform the role in London’s West End. On Broadway she has starred in “Jerry’s Girls,” “Starlight Express” and “State Fair,” “Les Miserables” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Off-Broadway, Andrea has appeared in the satirical “Newsical”; she has played the title role in regional productions of “Mame” and “Hello Dolly.” On PBS she has appeared in “Andrea McArdle” on Broadway and “The Leading Ladies of Broadway.”
Maureen McGovern, celebrated as “The Stradivarius Voice,” was Grammy nominated in 1973 as Best New Artist for “The Morning After” (“The Poseidon Adventure”). Her other film score hits include “Can You Read My Mind” (“Superman”) and the Oscar-winning “We May Never Love Like This Again” from “The Towering Inferno.” Her many critically acclaimed recordings include tributes to George Gershwin, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Harold Arlen and Richard Rodgers. Her current CD, “A Long and Winding Road,” has been praised by the New York Times as “A captivating musical scrapbook from the 1960s to the early ’70s. Ms. McGovern’s vocal technique is second to none.” Her Broadway credits include “Pirates of Penzance,” “Nine,” “The Threepenny Opera” and “Little Women.”
Faith Prince has been dazzling Broadway audiences since winning the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for her performance as Ms. Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” (1995). Faith most recently starred on Broadway in “Disaster!” the musical, for which she received rave reviews. In 2014, she starred as the scheming, irascible Miss Hannigan in the revival of “Annie” on Broadway, and in 2008, she was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for “A Catered Affair.” Other Broadway musical credits include “The Little Mermaid,” “Bells Are Ringing” and “Little Me,” among others, and she starred in the national tour of the Broadway hit “Billy Elliott.” Her award-winning album “A Leap of Faith” was recorded at Joe’s Pub, and she recently released her new album, “Total Faith.”
Billy Stritch is one of the premier singer-pianists on the New York and national jazz and cabaret scene. Broadway credits include musical supervisor and pianist for Liza Minnelli’s Tony Award-winning show “Liza’s at The Palace” and as Oscar, the onstage pianist in the 2001 revival of “42nd Street.” In addition to 24 years with Liza, Billy also accompanies and arranges for Tony Bennett, Marilyn Maye, Linda Lavin, Christine Ebersole and Paulo Szot. He is the composer of the Grammy-winning song “Does He Love You,” recorded by Reba McEntire and Linda Davis, and is the recipient of six MAC awards.
We were honored to interview Donna McKechnie from “4 Girls 4.” McKechnie received a Tony Award for her performance in the original production of “A Chorus Line” and is regarded internationally as one of Broadway’s foremost dancing and singing leading ladies. Her Broadway shows include “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (national tour), “The Education of H*Y*M*A*N-K*A*P*L*A*N,” “Sondheim—A Musical Tribute” (which she also choreographed), “On the Town,” “Promises, Promises,” “Company,” “State Fair” (for which she received the Fred Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer for the 1996 season) and “The Visit.” She was also featured in “Annie Warbucks” and “Love, Loss and What I Wore” in New York productions. She has starred in numerous productions in London’s West End, including “Promises, Promises,” “Company,” “No Way to Treat a Lady” (which she also choreographed), Cole Porter’s “Can-Can” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies.”
What some of my readers may not know is that “4 Girls 4” is a revival of an original concept conceived by Rosemary Clooney. Frankie Ortega was the group’s arranger/conductor.
That’s right. A very good friend of mine, Kaye Ballard, was in it. Rose Marie, Margaret Whiting and Helen O’Connell were some of the originals. I remember Kaye telling me it was the best job and they had the best time on the road touring. They were seasoned performers, and each had their own wonderful success, and Kaye said it was just the greatest thing. So, when our manager, Wayne [Gmitter], caught the [original] “4 Girls 4” on TV or YouTube, he called a few of us [to discuss a reboot of “4 Girls 4”], and we all jumped at the chance. And like Kaye’s experiences, it has been wonderful.
Is the format much like the original, where all of you perform together and then each actress/singer gets individual stage time to share anecdotes and perform numbers from their respective musical theater resumes?
Yes, we open and close [the show] together, but we each have our own little segments, and it’s just wonderful fun. We adapt our material, and each do 20 minutes or so. We’re all girlfriends, and it [the show] is always fabulous.
What about “4 Girls 4” has surprised you the most?
It says something wonderful to me about age being just a number. We are women who are not ingenues any longer but seasoned performers. It’s not spoken about, but the experience of seeing four wonderful female performers—together on stage—is very powerful. For me, just sitting and watching when one of them comes front and center on stage, they bring a whole history with them. Whether it’s 20 minutes or two hours, it’s a very rich experience. Each one of us tries to bring a number that she knows the audience will connect with and popular favorites. I’m a big fan of all the women that I work with, and, again, it [“4 Girls 4”] says something important about ageism perhaps, and that—in itself—can be a very inspiring element on stage.
What do you share with audiences during your segment?
I hope to give the audience members a break from life and give them joy. There are certain songs that become the soundtrack of your life. When you hear and see them performed, it’s like visiting old friends, and not just the performers but the material itself. I have fun talking about New York City in 1959 when I was a teenager, my first audition and what it was like back then. I share fun things like that and lead up to “A Chorus Line.” I talk about working with [Stephen] Sondheim and Michael Bennett. I try to drop a few names that I revere.
What is it like working with the group’s music director, the incomparable Billy Stritch?
He’s a phenomenal talent besides being just a great guy. As a musician, he’s one of the few that I put way up there, and he’s a brilliant entertainer. I can’t wait to hear the chords and changes that he brings to enhance a piece. It’s always just so emotional for me to hear, and it’s beautiful the way he thinks musically. He can play anything and is so even-keeled and confident. I never have to worry about the music. I just have to remember my lyrics!
I read that you are also a host of a podcast that is part of the Broadway Podcast Network. What is your focus for the podcast?
Yes, it’s new and exciting. Recently, I was given the opportunity to do a podcast for the Broadway Podcast Network. It’s produced especially for Broadway audiences. You can listen to my show on audio or visually watch it, and it’s called “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and we film it at Sardis. I invite three other women on the podcast who are not just actors but choreographers, conductors, directors and composers. It’s a free-flowing conversation—not like an interview—and [Sardis] serves us lunch. We have the best time talking about our lives and careers.
When you reflect upon your career, what are you most proud of?
I’ve had the luxury, after all these years, to see “A Chorus Line” continuously play somewhere. I am always thrilled to hear from people, receive wonderful letters and have conversations with people about how I inspired them. “A Chorus Line” was Michael Bennett’s great achievement and masterpiece. For a show to give the kind of hope and inspiration to people that it has for 45 years, it makes me very proud to have had any part in that. For me, seeing how far-reaching the show has become has just been wonderful.
What would you like for the audience to take away from your show at the Palladium?
It [the show] is all about the music, making connections and lifting people up out of a world that is very complicated. I get inspired by the human talent, artistry and music of great composers. I can speak for the four of us when I say we want to entertain the people and let the music lift people’s spirits and transport them to another hemisphere.