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Andrew McCarthy's Second Act

By Gary Wien

The voice on the other side of the phone sounded so familiar, yet we had never met. It was then that I realized that one of the interviews we sought for this issue was about to begin. An interview I wasn't sure was going to happen. Thankfully it was an interview with someone who most of my generation grew up with, so what to ask wasn't very difficult.

"Hello, this is Andrew McCarthy," said the voice.

Instantly, images of 80s movies like "Pretty In Pink", "St. Elmo's Fire", and "Less Than Zero" came to mind. My mind quickly began racing through his 80s catalog - don't forget "Mannequin", "Weekend At Bernie's" or "Class", the film that started it all. Damn, I thought. Forget about six degrees of Kevin Bacon - Andrew McCarthy was the eighties. So, why are we talking to him now, you might be wondering? Well, for the past several years, Andrew McCarthy has been embarking on the second act of his career; a return to his original dream of performing on stage as well as taking turns behind the camera and writing scripts. And, for the next few weeks, he's one of the stars at McCarter Theatre's revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten by the legendary Eugene O'Neill.

This is a play that has interested McCarthy for a long time. "I'm a fan of O'Neill's and I had done Long Day's Journey Into Night several years ago," explained Andrew McCarthy. "Basically it's the same character that I played in Long Day's Journey Into Night. You don't get a chance to do that very often - play the same character in a different play. And it's sort of ten years later in his life, so I just thought it was a great opportunity to do that. It's a great play that they don't mount often because it's such a difficult bear of a play, so when it came up I wanted to jump on it."

McCarthy's rise to fame as a member of the vaunted "Brat Pack" really came out of nowhere. While attending New York University he went to an open casting call and found himself the lead in a Hollywood movie two weeks later. That film, "Class" (playing opposite Jacquelyn Bisset), was an immediate hit and led to a run of successes that any actor would be proud of. But stage acting was always his first love and he's glad to have the opportunity at this time in his life to take advantage of it. I wondered if having such early success in films might have steered him away from the stage for a while.

"When I was a kid at NYU, I was studying to be in the theatre," said McCarthy. "I was in the theatre program and that's all I really wanted to do. I never thought about it in those days, but very quickly I got into movies and it just sort of happened. So, it takes a conscious effort to try and go back and do a play because it's very time consuming and there's not much money in it. It's something you just have to want to do, and it's easy to get sucked away from it because things usually happen very quickly and money is always involved.

"At certain points of my life I've wanted it more than others. Acting is sort of a movable thing too. Sometimes you really want to do a play and other times not so much. I think for a number of years, nerves got the best of me and I didn't want to do one. But I try to do a play a year. Like last year I did Fat Pig by Neil LaBute, which ran here in New York for four months or so. You can't really make a living in the theatre, so doing one a year is sort of a nice thing."

McCarthy made his Broadway debut in 1985 in the Vietnam drama The Boys of Winter but it's really been the last five or six years when he has been able to devote himself more to the stage. He has starred in such productions as the Tony award-winning Sideman on Broadway, the off-Broadway hit, The Exonerated, a one-man show entitled A Distant Country Called Youth, and revivals of Long Days Journey Into Night and The Glass Menagerie. Most recently he was seen in Fat Pig at the Lucille Lortel Theatre and directed Mr. Morton Waits For His Bus at the Ensemble Studio Theatre where he is a member. He is also a member of the Actor's Studio.

During the interview, McCarthy seemed relaxed as if he's truly content with where his career is currently and where he has come from. He laughs several times - that same sort of nervous laugh you've seen in his films. It seems very genuine with McCarthy. In fact, McCarthy himself seems very much like the characters he played in those classic eighties films. Fast forward twenty years and you can see how the writer in "St. Elmos's Fire" or the popular high school student in "Pretty In Pink" have aged. In fact, McCarthy himself still looks very much like he did twenty years ago.

Even though I got the feeling that Andrew doesn't like talking about his past, I couldn't resist bringing up some of those 80s films. I mean, what writer in his thirties didn't recite McCarthy's lines from "St. Elmo's Fire" by heart a million times? Lines like when Emilio Estevez says "I understand the fold but what's the fluff about?" and McCarthy replies, "the fluff is the stuff I write about in the newspaper." Ah bulla bulla bulla... uh, uh oh!

"Oh, you know, it's all part of the stew now," says McCarthy. "I suppose at a certain point in my life I didn't like it but now it seems so long ago and so much water over the dam it doesn't matter to me. People just sort of use it as a form of identification and that's fine. Those were some nice movies. I was glad to be part of them. Personally, I have no nostalgia for my past. It doesn't mean much to me, but for other people sure why not?"

But what about the quotes, I ask. I mean, McCarthy was part of some of the most quoted films of the decade.

"Yeah!" he laughs. "People bring them up to me all of the time on the street. It's funny."

Ever get the "Quick! What's the meaning of life?" I ask.

"I do occasionally," he replies. "I get 'Where's Bernie?' a lot."

Part of me feels bad for dredging up the 80s material that he's been forced to relive probably every interview of his life, but then again the original press release sent to us from McCarter Theatre promoted the play as being starred in by the former Brat Pack member, Andrew McCarthy. So they were obviously hoping us fans of the 80s would pay attention.

Hey, wait a minute... What's this about being a "former" member of the Brat Pack. Did they kick him out?

"I have no idea!" bringing on another laugh. "I guess I didn't pay my dues!"

Getting back to the serious part of the interview I asked him about the challenge of approaching a role that has been done successfully several times before. A brief pause indicates that it's a question he's thought about many times himself.

"Well, you've just got to try and sort of not have the ghosts of various people in your head because you can't win. No matter how good they were, they're even better in legend. You just sort of try and start over."

This production is his first play at McCarter Theatre and it's been a very good experience. He calls the theatre a beautiful and first-rate place. It's a bit of a homecoming for McCarthy, who says he grew up in North Jersey but hasn't been back since high school.

So you got out, huh? I asked.

"Got out!" another laugh. "Well, you said it!"

As I hung up the phone, I could still hear Andrew's laugh. It brought me back to 1985 and I reached for my dvd of "St. Elmo's..."

For more by this author, click here

Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.
Pebble Players Presents "Heathers, the Musical: High School Edition"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Celebrating their 10th season, Pebble Players has been entertaining Summit residents and audiences from surrounding towns with sophisticated Off-Broadway quality performances. The 2018 Season opens with "Heathers The Musical: High School Edition," directed by Jayne Myers and choreographed by Jaimie Woodruff.  Performances are Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 18 at 2:00pm. 
NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies from Thursday, March 21, 2019 - Saturday, March 23, 2019. The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by André De Shields (The Wiz). Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, re-creates the original show’s elegant dancing and tapping as choreographer.
Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater present Teahouse by Lao She
(PRINCETON, NJ) --Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Teahouse by Lao She on November 16, 17 and 18 at 8:00pm and November 17 at 2:00pm in the Donald G. Drapkin Studio at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. Teahouse is considered a masterpiece of contemporary Chinese theater, spanning 50 years in modern Chinese history from the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the Republican Revolution to the birth of the People’s Republic, bringing together over sixty characters who represent all walks of life. The production is directed by senior Changshuo Liu.
Axelrod's Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts Program Presents "Peter Pan"
(OCEAN TOWNSHIP, NJ) --  A family musical that’s perfect for the holiday season, “Peter Pan” is flying onto the Axelrod stage December 8-16. Axelrod’s award-winning Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts program presents one of Broadway’s timeless classics in a fully staged production directed by Lisa Goldfarb with musical direction by Randy Hurst and choreography by Wendy Roman.  

Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
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See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
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The five-time Tony award-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, returns to the stage with a 10th Anniversary Tour at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino! Performed in the venue’s ultra-modern Sound Waves theater, Rock of Ages runs from now until November 4, 2018.
There's One In Every Family: "Charley's Aunt" at The Shakespeare Theatre
On stage now through November 18 at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, “Charley’s Aunt” is described as “part Oscar Wilde, part ‘Fawlty Towers,’ with a dash of South American spice!” This side-splitting British farce from 1892 has drag, mistaken identity, romance and plenty of physical comedy. Join Jesse and Dave at rehearsals in Florham Park to hear from the cast and director what makes this such a hilarious and enduring show.

Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

View all events

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