American musical (1977) based on Harold Gray's "Little Orphan Annie" comic strip.

An orphan, a milllionaire, a dog... a hit!
Playwright Thomas Meehan thought it was a bad idea. Composer Charles Strouse (Bye Bye Birdie) thought it was a bad idea. Lyricist Martin Charnin thought adapting the comic strip into a musical was a great idea, and eventually won Meehan and Strouse over (It took a while though. Charnin and Strouse started work in 1971). Mike Nichols led the team of producers who took the show to Broadway in 1977. Charnin would direct.

Annie opened at the Alvin Theatre on April 21, 1977 and ran for 2,377 performances in New York. Andrea McArdle played the original Annie. Dorothy Loudon played Miss Hannigan and Reid Shelton was Oliver Warbucks. (Sarah Jessica Parker would join the cast as an orphan in 1978, and take over the lead role in 1979.)

The show won 7 Tony Awards. In addition to Loudon (who beat out McArdle for Best Actress in a Musical), the show won for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Costume Design, Best Scenic Design, and Best Choreography (Peter Gennaro). 20 years later, a new production of the show on Broadway would win the Tony for "Best Revival of a Musical."

It should be the soppiest, most sentimental musical that even that renowned sugar-processing plant, Broadway, has produced. After all, ponder the plot. Li'l orphan Annie, the seraph with the all-red curls and the all-rose philosophy, is rescued from New York's nastiest orphanage by Oliver Warbucks, a zillionaire so powerful that Presidents rush from Washington to his Yuletide parties. Not only does he end up adopting her and her bashful mutt: under her 11-year-old influence he joins FDR in a rousing chorus of "a New Deal for Christmas". Yuk. Order ten gross of sickbags. Bring on Sondheim, bring on Herod, bring on anyone likely to take a tough view of savvy tots and rich men bearing gifts. Yet, sap that I was, I enjoyed Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin's musical when it first hit London 20 years ago, and, sap that I still must be, I enjoyed its latest revival.
--Benedict Nightingale, The Times

It's a Hard Knock Life
The plot: It's the Great Depression. New York City. 11-year-old Annie, an adorable moppet who says adorable things and leads other orphans in song, longs for her parents to rescue her from the Municipal Orphanage where she lives under the tyrannical Agatha Hannigan, scrubbing floors. Annie runs away, adopts a lovable dog, which she names Sandy, and tours New York City before stumbling across a shantytown. The cops find her, return her to the orphanage. Just then, billionaire Oliver Warbucks sends his secretary to bring an orphan over to the house for Christmas. Guess who gets to go?

Warbucks is smitten with Annie, and wants to adopt her, but he must first deal with her desire to find her real parents. Warbucks announces over the radio that there's a $50,000 reward for reuniting Annie with her parents. Hannigan convinces her brother and his moll to pose as the parents, collect the reward, and then murder the girl. Meanwhile, Warbucks takes Annie to meet a depressed FDR. She cheers him up with a song (The second reprise of "Tomorrow") and inspires him to create the New Deal. With a family heirloom and a birth certificate from Hannigan, the phony parents arrive to claim Annie. In the nick of time FDR arrives, who proves, thanks to the investigative arm of the Federal Government, that Annie's parents are indeed dead, the Hannigans are phonies, and that Warbucks can adopt Annie and dog after all. Happy ending.

Film versions
In 1982, the movie version of the musical was released featuring Albert Finney, Aileen Quinn, and Carol Burnett. Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters, and Ann Reinking rounded out the cast. The film was directed by John Huston and brought in a respectable $57 million at the box office. However, as it took $50 million to bring to the screen (the rights to the show were $9 million itself, a record at the time), it was considered a disaster. It didn't help that in addition to cutting entire beloved parts of the show to fit into a two hour film that Columbia Pictures insisted on charging an outrageous $6 for adult tickets.

Disney's 1999 made for television version was directed by Rob Marshall (Cabaret), and featured a strong Broadway-experienced cast. Alicia Morton in the lead role was supported out with Kathy Bates as Ms. Hannigan and Victor Garber as Daddy Warbucks. Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cummings, and Andrea McArdle herself round out the cast.

Impact of Annie
Annie is by no means one of the great American musicals. Although the tunes are lively and memorable enough that the audience comes out of the show singing, the songs have not entered the popular music canon (Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" notwithstanding). The story lacks the depth of better loved shows, as do much of Charnin's lyrics ("Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you're always a day away/ Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you're always... a... day... aaaa--- waaaaay.") However, Annie continues to be popular, especially in local and community productions. Why? Two words: kids, and dogs. Either one can win over an audience. Add some peppy songs, and they're unstoppable.

The show did have three major impacts:

1. Introduced a new generation to live theatre. The family-friendly show brought middle-class families with kids into the theatre to see the national tour (in the process postponing the death of American theatre by another 30 years).

2. Inspired a new generation of young actors. Ask any Broadway actress today who grew up in the 1970's as to what inspired her to get onstage and likely you'll hear it was a production of Annie. Parts for children in community theatre are rare, and usually unrewarding. This show is a proving ground for child performers.

3. Economics: Even with orchestra seats selling at $16 in 1977, Annie grossed over $100 million. (It had cost $650,000 to mount). The show fueled new investment in Broadway musicals in the 1980s (although, only Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical spectacles would see anywhere near that return).

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
As the show was such a cash cow, a sequel was talked about for years. Finally, in 1989, Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge (I'm not kidding) opened in Washington, DC. It was an abysmal failure. Plans for the Broadway show were cancelled. The script was rewritten, with Agatha Hannigan being removed altogether, and the show re-cast. Annie Warbucks was the official sequel, which made it to New York (Off-Broadway) in 1993, but only ran 200 performances. Meehan would go on to redeem himself by writing the books for the popular Tony winners The Producers and Hairspray.

Reviews of "Annie: A New Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording". <> (7 April 2003)
Ablemarle of London West End Theatre Guide, <> (7 April 2003) <> (7 April 2003)
Cunningham, John. "Cast List: Broadway." Annie: the Musical Reference Web Site. <> (10 June 2003)
Jones, Kenneth. "They Got Annie! Andrea McArdle Will Be Special Star in TV Movie, 'Annie'." Playbill Online. 26 April 1999. <> (10 June 2003)
Jones, Kenneth. "PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Andrea McArdle." Playbill Online. 13 April 1999. <> (10 June 2003)
Kenrick, John. 1970's III: Book Musicals. <> (8 April 2003)
"Annie." Internet Movie DataBase. <> (10 June 2003)

Annie will not be beaten down. She fancies herself a sort of patriot, a Joan of Arc, a Phoenix, rising from the ashes of her repressed life. Pardon to the reader, the truth is, Annie would consider herself those things, if she knew what they were. But Annie hates to read. She hated school. She bares her teeth at intellectual dignity, much preferring her wild ignorance. Annie is so proud.

This Annie, whom I met working in a small town cafe was raised by a man who one might, despite the paradox, describe as violently charismatic. He burns with righteous zeal and indignation, scowling at the sins of the world. With his chest thrust out, like the insignificant bantam, he calls his wife a whore, though she isn't half as much a whore as the other woman he's sleeping with. With every sweep of his raging, lusty eyes, he contradicts his pious vernacular. He is intense, compelling, a full-frontal assault to the senses, though all of it is just a masquerade to hide the coward within.

He used to beat Annie. She would throw herself over the babies. Mom was too drunk to know the difference, so the children paid for his mortal sin, and her mortal sin and the world's mortal sin. When Annie was old enough, she paid the bills. Father had his outdated country lounge-mongrel music career to pursue. I could see how she might have hated school, being exhausted from working. And of course, she's dyslexic.

From these empty roots Annie grew up, angry and proud and wild, hating the better fortune of "others", but only in such cases where the "others" made it obvious that the better the fortune, the higher the Caste (And such things do exist among us, you cannot tell me that they don't.). Annie also grew up tall and beautiful, with eyes that flash large and innocent and wounded inbetween her lightening and her pride. Annie's married now, to a man the polar oposite of her father. She doesn't clean her house, just to spite her father. Now Annie scowls at the sins of the world, and at those who scowl at her sin.It's almost as if she prides herself in turning out badly, the final kick in the pants to a man who wished to point to his children as irrefutable evidence that the fascade was real, or that the whip was righteous and well wielded.

Well, Annie got pregnant and today. She told me she's having a girl. And I wonder...will she crack the soul-injuring mold? Will she fight off the demons, will her daughter know different? Or, has Annie become her father? Her husband confided in me, in tones laced heavy with dread, that he sees the old man in her eyes. Yet, I gently remind him, she has the imprint, perhaps, but also the redeeming fire to fight, and the experience that grants grace. And he nods, and a tired sigh settles in his eyes, he is resigned because he loves her and can do nothing about it, though she eeks his strength for herself. So she can be only stronger, never repressed, never struck down, only, of course the lightening and the wounded innocence peeking from the shadows in her eyes.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.