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THEATER: Ventura County | NOTES

From 'Annie' to 'Oliver!'

Andrea McArdle takes role of barmaid Nancy in revival.


Two years ago, Andrea McArdle recorded an album composed, mostly, of songs she'd sung in various stage productions--including revivals of "Meet Me in St. Louis," "Peter Pan" and "Carousel." And, inevitably, there was "Tomorrow," which McArdle introduced in the original Broadway run of "Annie," just over 20 years ago."

Two songs were new to her repertoire: "Easy to Be Hard" from "Hair," and "As Long as He Needs Me," the big ballad from Lionel Bart's "Oliver!" That one, she says, "I did as a hint to Cameron Macintosh, in case he ever did a revival here."

The British impresario had mounted a highly successful revival of "Oliver!" in London's West End, but it took an American company, the Theater League, to give McArdle an opportunity to play the barmaid, Nancy. She'll be onstage at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza beginning Friday, in a production starring Richard Kline as Fagin.

"As a kid, I wanted to be the Artful Dodger," said McArdle during a recent break in a North Hollywood rehearsal studio. She allowed that playing a teenage master pickpocket is probably out of the question now that she's 33.

" . . . But Nancy has many of the same qualities, and had been, earlier in her life, one of Fagin's proteges; that's how she met her boyfriend, Bill Sikes. And both the voice and the temperament are perfect for me."

Before bursting onto Broadway as the precocious redhead Annie, McArdle had already appeared on two television series: for two years on the soap "Search for Tomorrow," and, briefly, as the kid sister of Arnold Horshack, played by Ron Palillo, on "Welcome Back, Kotter."

Another prominent character, of course, was the extremely cool Vinnie Barbarino, played by John Travolta. "I had to leave when I got the part in 'Annie,' " she said, allowing that, "Compared to 'Kotter,' being in 'Annie' was nothing to me--I even had a Barbarino [souvenir] pillow."

Although McArdle--still a redhead in real life--never got to play the Artful Dodger, her daughter, Alexis, plays one of Fagin's male proteges in the current production.

* "Oliver!" opens Friday and continues through Sept. 28 at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Auditorium, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Ticket prices are $29.50-$37.50, available from Civic Arts Plaza box office or TicketMaster. Call 583-8700 or (213) 480-3232.


'Odd Couple' in Camarillo: The season's Neil Simon-fest continues with the Camarillo Community Theater's production of the playwright's best-known work, "The Odd Couple."

Gary Schnaffner plays Felix here, with John Lordan as Oscar. They mostly stay away from imitating TV's Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, though Schnaffner has picked up a bit of Jack Lemmon's delivery from the film version. They work together like a long-established comedy team under the able first-time direction of Schnaffner's wife, Colleen.

* "The Odd Couple" continues through Sept. 27 at Camarillo Airport Theater, 330 Skyway Drive, on Camarillo Airport grounds. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 27. Tickets to all shows are $10; $8, seniors, students and active military; and $5, children 10 and under, with a family special of $25 for two adults and up to three children. Call 388-5716.

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