It's 4 p.m., and Andrea McArdle sounds just a bit weary. "I've been up since 5," she says. "We had some snow, and it made it hard to get into town." Even over the phone, that voice is unmistakable. A bright, gleaming goblet of a voice, hard and clear and satiny all at once. This is, after all, the actress who first made her mark nearly 25 years ago, belting "Tomorrow" at the top of her little lungs. At 37, she's still got the lungs. But her range has increased vastly, allowing her to follow her latest Broadway stint as the squeaky-clean Belle ("Beauty and the Beast") with the quirky, trashy Sally Bowles in "Cabaret." Long gone is the street urchin look that thrilled 12-year-old girls. Instead, McArdle's publicity photo shows a sultry, sinewy woman with a tousle of dark hair and a strappy black dress. Perfect for Sally Bowles, which McArdle is rehearsing on this frigid New York afternoon. She's preparing to join the national tour, which opened to critical acclaim in March of 1999 in Los Angeles. Directed by Sam Mendes (who won an Academy Award for directing "American Beauty"), this production of "Cabaret" has been hailed as a darker reinvention of the traditionally celebratory piece. McArdle, who replaces Kate Shindle (aka Miss America 1998), opens with the production in Nashville Jan. 23 and will appear at Richmond's Landmark Theater Jan. 30-Feb. 4. "It's going great," McArdle says. "It's so different to be thrown into a show when it's already running, and not rehearse it from the beginning Some things are easier, but some things are harder." McArdle says she had actually hoped to launch the tour, but the fates would not have it. "I had a very tragic first showing when I auditioned for this role two years ago. I'm bad at auditions in general. The more you [work], the worse it gets. You're in a room with fluorescent lights, with people sitting behind a desk. You say, 'wait a minute, this is not the way I'm used to working!' Someone's eating a sandwich, someone's walking out of the room. Do you look at them? Do you look past them? I hate it. We all hate it. But I used to love it when I was a kid, so you have to get back to that thinking. It's how we get our work. You just have to get good at it." The bungled Cabaret audition freed her up to play Belle until she was able to land the fish she'd wanted in the first place. "It was so nice that this came around again, and I got a second chance at it," she says. McArdle will do five months of the tour, and her daughter will accompany her. Twelve-year-old Alexis, now the age McArdle was when she played Annie, has an impressive resume already, having appeared on Broadway in "Les Miserables" and performed with her mom in national tours of both "Les Miserables" and "Oliver." McArdle is quick to say that, even though her name got Alexis in the door, her daughter had to prove her talent like anybody else. Winning her first role - the young Cosette in "Les Miserables" - took some time. "She auditioned six times until she got it," McArdle says proudly. With a career spanning 25 years, McArdle has seen how theater has changed over the years. "When I was a kid, you didn't have subs." she scoffs. "You did eight shows a week. You had to do it, so you did it." And those shows took more out of a performer than today's do. "I have vocal cords of steel," she
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