November 18, 1996 12:00 PM

EIGHT-YEAR-OLD ALEXIS KALEHOFF didn’t look at all nervous as she made her Broadway debut last August as the orphan Cosette in Les Misérables. Backstage, though, her mother nearly lost it. “I was a step away from throwing up,” says Andrea McArdle. Fortunately, Alexis kept her composure and McArdle, her lunch.

Still, it’s clear that tomorrow—as in “Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow!”—has finally arrived for McArdle, 33, who, as a 13-year-old redheaded pixie, was the first to play the title role in Annie on Broadway. Watching her daughter belt out a tune in two matinees a week brings the former child star full circle. “She’s been bitten,” says McArdle of Alexis. “She’s a gypsy now for sure.”

McArdle knows the feeling. After playing Annie—and turning “Tomorrow” into a virtual anthem—McArdle went on to star in the 1987 Broadway musical Starlight Express, appear in revivals of Grease and Evita and, last year, record an album of show tunes.

In 1987 she met and married TV theme-song composer Edd Kalehoff, now 50, and a year later gave birth to Alexis. Seeing her mother on Broadway, as Fantine in Les Misérables in 1993, inspired Alexis to want to hit the stage herself. “She got in the door because she’s my daughter,” says McArdle, who lives in New Rochelle, N.Y. “But that didn’t get her the job.”

Spoken like a proud stage mother—but not a pushy one. “I don’t want Alexis to become a showbiz kid,” says McArdle. “No more Drew Barry-mores, please. I’d be just as happy if she wanted to be a veterinarian.”

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