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Andrea Martin is more than another funny woman


People expect Andrea Martin to make them laugh. Years ago, after her performance as Golde, the careworn mother of “Fiddler on the Roof,” a theatergoer met her at the stage door.

“So,” the woman asked. “When do you think you’ll be funny again?”

She could say the same about Martin’s latest venture: a moving adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” which one London critic described as making “a triumphant attack on the cockles of your heart.” In the production that opened Wednesday on Broadway, Martin plays the Ghost of Christmas Past, a wraithlike figure in a patchwork gown.

Andrea Martin as The Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol on Broadway.
Andrea Martin as The Ghost of Christmas Past in “A Christmas Carol” on Broadway.Joan Marcus

It’s a far cry from the pushy aunt she played in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” “What?” she cries, upon meeting a vegetarian. “He don’t eat meat? Fine — I make lamb!”

Turns out, it’s all gravy for Martin.

“I took this role because I wanted to be in something that was joyful and decent,” she says of the Charles Dickens classic. “This is the holiday season, and I wanted to be in a grateful place.”

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in her dressing room, three long, twisty staircases high above the Lyceum Theater’s stage. The nimble 72-year-old has outfitted her space with a flickering, LED-lit hearth hung with stockings, a 4-foot-tall (artificial) tree and a photo of her granddaughter, Chloe.

The only thing she has yet to do, Martin tells The Post, is make gata, the Armenian bread that’s a holiday staple.

“It takes about three days to make, but the kids love it,” the longtime Upper West Sider says of her two sons, now grown. “On Christmas Day, we’d have our gata and coffee and hot chocolate, and open gifts for many, many hours.”

She grew up in Portland, Maine, “an earnest, hard-working” girl who loved to perform. Several years out of Emerson College, she found herself in Canada doing “Godspell” with Eugene Levy, Martin Short and future “Saturday Night Live” superstar, Gilda Radner.

“I’ve never seen any actress outside of Lucille Ball who could be such a great physical comedian, and who demanded love from everyone,” she recalls of Radner. Martin later took her place on another comedy staple, “SCTV,” where she became close to John Candy.

“John was exactly the person you thought he was,” she says of the late beloved “Uncle Buck” star. “There wasn’t any pretension … He played the clown so long, the world didn’t get to see what a great actor he was becoming.”

She, meanwhile, worked steadily, on TV, in film and on Broadway. It was there, in a circus-themed, 2013 revival of “Pippin,” that she found the greatest satisfaction of her career: as a singing, trapeze-swinging grandmother. Martin says she was struck by her big number, whose lyrics — “I believe that if I refuse to get old/I can stay young till I die” — spoke to her.

“I was 65,” she says. “I thought I could connect with an audience that was going through the same thing I was, getting older and wanting to keep saying yes to life.”

She went to circus school and was soon swinging 10 feet above the stage, without a net — and without missing a note. Not only did she win a Tony, but she emerged unscathed.

Fast forward to last year, when she broke several ribs rehearsing “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus,” with her good friend, Nathan Lane. The show opened without her.

“I was so disappointed,” she says. “But life goes on. Maybe if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be doing ‘A Christmas Carol.’

“Honestly,” she continues, “I think I’m the same person I was when I was 12. I don’t really think too far ahead. I’m happy in the moment, happy to be doing this show, and I just have faith that something else good will happen.”



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