August 5, 2013

Maine actress turns big risk into rewards

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

NEW YORK - Andrea Martin has never shied away from difficult work.

PippinMusic Box Theatre
click image to enlarge

Portland native Andrea Martin performs during a production of “Pippin” at Broadway’s Music Box Theater, where she plays a robust older woman with secrets to share with her grandson.

Photo by Joan Marcus

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Andrea Martin, an actress for 40-plus years, has won Tony Awards for her stage work, appeared in films and on television, and done voice work on “The Simpsons.”

Photo by Don Dixon

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In a stage and screen career that dates to 1970, the Portland native has kept herself busy, winning both Tony and Emmy awards for her work on Broadway and in Hollywood, most recently this past June when she picked up her second career Tony for her work in the hit musical "Pippin."

She has taken a one-woman show across North America, impersonated Barbra Streisand, starred in the hit movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," done voice work on "The Simpsons" and portrayed Ishka on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

But in her 40-plus years in show business, Martin had never sung upside down or worked the trapeze until she teamed up with director Diane Paulus for the revival of "Pippin." The show, which Paulus has reimagined with a circus theme, is a major Broadway hit.

The coming-of-age musical about a boy who would be king combines song and dance with a high-wire circus act, and the 66-year-old Martin has placed herself in the middle of the most exciting action.

The adventurous actress, singer and comedian plays Pippin's loving grandmother, Berthe. The 1965 Deering High School graduate garners the biggest ovation every night at Broadway's Music Box theater for her one song, the uplifting audience sing-along "No Time at All."

She also draws the most gasps.

As she launches into her song, she sheds her matronly robe to reveal a sexy, skintight leotard, then hoists herself onto the trapeze and sings much of the song from high above the stage. At one point, the professional acrobat who accompanies her, the very buff 25-year-old Yannick Thomas, turns her head over heels and holds her by her ankles before passing her down to the safety of actors on stage.

There are no wires, no safety nets, no harnesses.

She sings right through the sequence, never missing a beat. The audience goes nuts. It's such a special moment, the show's producers don't want to ruin the surprise by releasing photos or videos of her performance.

"I'm really not nervous. I don't think about it. I think about being a character," she said during an interview at the Times Square restaurant Sardi's, where caricatures of the world's best-known stars adorn the walls.

In a sign of her illustrious career, Martin is about to get her own caricature at Sardi's. It's Broadway's equivalent of Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The illustration is finished; Sardi's is just waiting for the right time to ceremoniously place it on the wall.

"I'm not sure where it's going to go," Martin said, glancing at the wall above her table. "But I'm sure it's going to be nice."

DESTINED TO BE AN ACTRESS

For as long as she can remember, Martin has wanted to act. Born in Portland, she took acting and dancing classes there, got involved with the Children's Theatre of Maine, and took roles at regional theaters across southern Maine as soon as she was good enough to land them.

Martin credits her upbringing in Maine with sparking her desire to act. She took advantage of the opportunities in Portland and elsewhere. She said she didn't have to dream of being an actress, because she knew that was what she was going to do.

She didn't know how, where or when. She knew only that she would.

"I never had goals of coming to Broadway, because I didn't really know what it was," she said. "But I did know I wanted to act, for sure. I just didn't know what that meant. I knew in the moment I was going to play the fairy godmother, and then I was going to play Nancy Twinkle. But I didn't know what it meant in terms of a career. I didn't know how it could parlay into a career."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Roxie, played by 1965 Deering High School graduate Andrea Martin, studies up on group therapy with her TV show husband, Mitchell Laurance, during a 1987 episode of “Roxie” on the CBS Television Network.

CBS Photo

  


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