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LEAPIN’ LIZARDS BROADWAY FANS! It’s getting close to Broadway’s biggest night of the year. You heard it…. The 74th Annual Tony Awards is just 31 DAYS AWAY. We got more of your favorite showstopping performances coming your way on our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. This is giving us so much vibes & we continue to celebrate Live Theater’s promising triumphant comeback after a rough past year. Here come more of your favorite legendary performances.
At # 31 on our countdown, we take you to New York City in 1933, during the peak of the Great Depression. There, we meet a spunky little red-headed orphan. Despite living in poverty under the watchful eye of the orphanage’s cruel, drunk and abusive matron, she has big hopes & dreams of finding and reuniting with her family. One day after being invited and taken under the wing in spending Christmas with the depression era’s billionaire, the man himself helps the young girl in making her dreams come true…. A $50,000 reward if anyone came forward to saying they are the young girl’s parents. This causes the orphanage’s mean matron and her gang of criminal con artists to stir up some trouble. This is of course the story of…… Annie. The musical features a score by
by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin along with a book by Thomas Meehan.
From the 2013 telecast, Lila Crawford as the titular role, Emmy Award winner Jane Lynch as the wicked “Miss Agatha Hannigan”, and the cast perform a medley of 2 of the show’s classic songs….. IT’S THE HARD KNOCK LIFE and LITTLE GIRLS.
Annie was originally first conceived in 1972 by Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan who wanted to create a musical adaptation based on Harold Gray’s comic strip LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE. After re-reading some of the comics and not being able to find any perfect material they wanted. The team along with Charles Strouse decided to create an original storyline. The main characters from the comics that made the musical of course are “Annie”, “Oliver Warbucks” and the dog “Sandy”. When coming up with the original story, the trio had 2 separate locations for the story to take place….. The downbeat mood of the then-current Nixon era / Vietnam War and in New York City during the Great Depression. Thomas Meehan’s idea of ANNIE in The Great Depression really reminded him of his personal experiences during that time. He also noticed that the character of “Annie” herself was a 20th Century American female version of the titular orphan characters created by Charles Dickens including Oliver Twist. Just like in Dickens’ stories, it would deal with the mystery of the abandonment and unknown parents of “Annie” as consistent with a strand of mysteries in Dickens’ tales. Several bits of material had to be trimmed out. Eventually Thomas Meehan would later restore it for his novelization. From there, the team began hard at work on the show.
The show had its World Premiere debut in 1976 at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut. The early reviews were mixed to negative. During the process between Connecticut and arriving on Broadway, scenes were cut. New dialogue and songs were re-written. In addition, several parts were recast including the titular role of “Annie” herself. The original actress who played the title role was Kristen Vigard. In case anyone may not know, she was randomly fired from the show due to the producer’s decision that “her genuinely sweet interpretation was NOT tough enough for the street-smart orphan”. She was replaced by understudy Andrea McArdle (who previously played one of Annie’s fellow Orphan friends “Pepper”) and the role made her an overnight sensation.
ANNIE finally made its Broadway debut in 1977 at Broadway’s Alvin Theatre (currently the Neil Simon Theatre). During its original run, the show transferred to 3 other Broadway houses consisting of The ANTA Playhouse (now the August Wilson Theatre), the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, and the Uris Theatre (now the Gershwin Theatre). It ran for 2,377 performances. Under the direction of Martin Charnin and choreography by Peter Gennaro, the cast was led by…..
Andrea McArdle (later Shelley Bruce, Sarah Jessica Parker, Allison Smith and Alyson Kirk) as “Annie”,
Dorothy Louden (later Alice Ghostely, Dolores Wilson, Betty Hutton, Marcia Lewis, and June Havoc) as “Miss Agatha Hannigan”,
Reid Shelton (later Conrad John Schuck, Harve Presnell, Keene Curtis, and Rhodes Reason) as “Oliver Warbucks”,
Sandy Faison (later Anne Kerry, Katherine Boule, Lynn Kearney, and Marcy Braken Phillips) as “Grace Ferrell”,
Robert Fitch (later Gary Beach, Guy Stroman, and Richard Sabellico) as “Rooster Hannigan”,
Barbara Erwin (later Annie McGreevey, Dorothy Stanley, and Rita Rudner) as “Lily St. Regis”.
The original production was a smash hit earning rave reviews & earned a huge following especially for a younger audience. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards that year winning 7 including BEST MUSICAL. Its original cast album from Columbia Records went on to top the charts & win a 1978 Grammy for BEST CAST SHOW ALBUM.
With its life a hit on Broadway, ANNIE brought the DAY AWAY around the world. It launched various companies including 3 North American National Tours all at once and a debut in London’s West End the following year of 1978. For many young girls, the show’s music became a huge obsession with them dragging their parents to let them audition as well. ANNIE would go on to be revived on the Great Bright Way TWICE.
The first revival happened in 1997 commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the show. Reuniting the majority of the original creative team, they collaborated with Macy’s in launching a major open casting call tour to find that new leading lady to star in the title role. The winner was Joanna Pacitti. Before heading to NYC, this 20th Anniversary embarked on a mini 8-city Pre-Broadway tour. The early reviews were positive. However, things took a turn for the worse, repeating what had happened during the Pre-Broadway run of the original production. Just 2 weeks before the Broadway arrival, the tour made a stop in Boston, MA. Joanna Pacitti caught a nasty case of bronchitis missing several performances. While she was recovering, the producers showed up at her hotel room and…… FIRED JOANNA!!! Pacitti was replaced by understudy Brittany Kissinger (who also was playing orphan “July”). The termination of Joanna Pacitti caused an outrage of controversy. It made the headlines on every major newspaper and Joanna herself appeared on every major talk show to discuss the situation & share her talent with the world. In addition, Joanna’s family filed a lawsuit against the producers of this new revival of ANNIE for more than $10-20 million.
The production finally arrived on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre (now the Al Hirschfeld Theatre) playing only 253 performances. Once again under the direction of Martin Charnin and choreography by Peter Gennaro, the cast was led by…..
Brittany Kissinger as “Annie”,
Nell Carter as “Miss Agatha Hannigan”,
Conrad John Schuck reprising the role of “Oliver Warbucks”,
Colleen Dunn as “Grace Ferrell”,
Jim Ryan as “Rooster Hannigan”,
Karen Byers-Blackwell as “Lily St. Regis”.
That first revival was nominated and lost it’s only Tony nomination that year for BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL.
After the short-lived run of the 20th Anniversary revival, ANNIE went back to playing productions around the world including another West End revival and several North American Tours.
One of the National Tours included a 5 year 30th Anniversary Tour that briefly returned to NYC for Christmas. It played the Theater at Madison Square Garden for a month-long run. With its original creative team once again with direction by Martin Charnin and choreography by Peter Gennaro’s daughter Liza (keeping it alive in the family), that cast was led by….
Marissa O’Donnell as “Annie”,
Kathie Lee Gifford as “Miss Agatha Hannigan”.
Conrad John Schuck reprising the role of “Oliver Warbucks”,
Elizabeth Broadhurst as “Grace Ferrell”,
Scott Willis as “Rooster”,
McKenzie Phillips as “Lily St. Regis”.
The most recent Broadway revival of ANNIE happened in 2012 commemorating the show’s 35th Anniversary. It played Broadway’s Palace Theatre for 525 performances. Under the direction of James Lapine and choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, the cast was led by…..
Lilla Crawford (later Taylor Richardson and Sadie Sink alternating) as “Annie”,
Katie Finneran (later Jane Lynch and Faith Prince) as “Miss Agatha Hannigan”,
Anthony Warlow (later Ron Raines) as “Oliver Warbucks”,
Brynn O’Malley (later Jenni Barber) as “Grace Ferrell”,
Clarke Thorell as “Rooster Hannigan”,
J. Elaine Marcos (later Kirsten Wyatt) as “Lily St. Regis”.
The recent revival was nominated for 2 Tony Awards in 2013 including BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL. However it lost both its categories.
Along with its success on stage, ANNIE has had an unforgettable legacy on screen 3 TIMES.
The original film was released in 1982 from Columbia Pictures. The original film is a tribute to the story with several tweaks. However, it included various changes including the story set during the 4th of July festivities (instead of Christmas). There were also several new songs written specifically for the movie by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin including DUMB DOG, SIGN, and the showstopping LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES. Under the direction of John Huston and choreography by Joe Layton, the original film starred….
Aileen Quinn as “Annie”,
Carol Burnett as “Miss Agatha Hannigan”,
Albert Finney as “Oliver Warbucks”,
The recent late Ann Reinking as “Grace Ferrell”,
Tim Curry as “Rooster Hannigan”,
Bernadette Peters as “Lily St. Regis”.
The original film earned mixed reviews but was well received by audiences everywhere. It went on to be nominated for several Awards including 2 Oscars including BEST MUSIC and 3 Golden Globes including BEST PICTURE – COMEDY / MUSICAL.
The 2nd film version was released in 1999 as an acclaimed TV Movie for Disney and ABC. Under the direction and choreography by Rob Marshall, this TV Movie cast was led by….
Alicia Morton as “Annie”,
Kathy Bates as “Miss Agatha Hannigan”,
Victor Garber as “Oliver Warbucks”,
Audra McDonald as “Grace Ferrell”,
Alan Cumming as “Rooster Hannigan”,
Kristin Chenoweth as “Lily St. Regis”.
This TV movie version was well received by viewers. It became one of the most popular versions ever of ANNIE produced and seen by over 26.3 people during its initial debut becoming THE 2ND MOST WATCHED DISNEY MOVIE EVER TO AIR ON ABC. It was nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards including OUTSTANDING MADE FOR TELEVISION MOVIE. It ended up winning only 2 for OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY (for Rob Marshall) and OUTSTANDING MUSIC DIRECTION. It’s now available to watch on Disney+.
The most recent film version of ANNIE was released in 2014 from Sony Pictures. This version was produced by JAY-Z and Will Smith giving the musical a modern-urban hip-hop twist. Still set in New York City, the timeline was changed from The Great Depression in 1933 to the present day. Some of the characters were cut (including “Lily St. Regis”) and had their names and the story fully updated. In addition, all of the iconic songs were given a funny Pop, R&B, and Hip Hop sound. A new song written by Greg Kurstin, Sia, and Will Gluck called OPPORTUNITY. Under the direction of Will Gluck and choreography by Zachary Woodley, this cast was led by….
Quvenzhane Wallis as “Annie”,
Cameron Diaz as “Miss Hannigan” (with new first name as “Colleen” instead of “Agatha”),
Jamie Foxx as “William Stacks” (formerly known as “Oliver Warbucks”),
Rose Byrne as “Grace Ferrell”,
Bobby Canavale as “Guy Dannilly” (in place of “Rooster Hannigan”).
This 2014 film version was met with mixed reviews but did great at the Box Office. It did also go on to be nominated for several Awards including 2 Golden Globes.
Coming up, ANNIE will return to the screen this holiday season as an upcoming Live televised production for NBC. It’s set to air on December 2nd, 2021. Under the co-Direction by Emmy nominee Alex Rudzinski and Obie Award winner Lear deBessonet along with choreography by Tony winner Sergio Trujillo, the cast will include….
Celina Smith as “Annie”,
Taraji P. Henson as “Miss Agatha Hannigan”,
Harry Connick Jr as “Oliver Warbucks”,
Nicole Scherzinger as “Grace Ferrell”,
Tituss Burgess as “Rooster Hannigan”,
A TBD performer as “Lily St. Regis”.
Today, ANNIE continues to be a popular musical performed around the world in schools, community, regional theaters, and ongoing touring companies everywhere around the world.
Isn’t ANNIE such a great role model?
Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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