Friday, June 30, 2006

Annie's New Deal for Christmas at Madison Square Garden

Annie's New Deal for Christmas at Madison Square Garden

With the 30th anniversary of the Broadway premiere of Annie coming up in early 2007, there was some speculation that the current touring production would land back on the Great White Way. Instead, when the revival finally hits New York later this year, it will be mounted at Madison Square Garden just in time for the Holidays (December 6-30, 2006).

The beloved Charles Strouse/Martin Charnin tuner originally played the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) back in April, 1977 and was nominated for a whopping ten Tony Awards, winning six. Not only did the American Theatre Wing declare it the Best Musical, Annie also won for Best Original Score (Strouse and Charnin), Best Book (Thomas Meehan, who would not strike gold on Broadway again until The Producers 24 years later), Best Actress (Dorothy Loudon), Best Choreography (Peter Gennaro), Best Scenic Design (David Mitchell) and Best Costume Design (Theoni V. Aldredge). The production would last for 2,377 performances in four different Broadway venues.

As my Steve On Broadway (SOB) profile notes, Annie was the very first Broadway production I ever saw, albeit in London during the spring of 1979; I credit Annie with spurring my lasting love for live theatre. That production was breathtakingly wonderful, particularly with the stellar Sheila Hancock as Miss Hannigan and inspirational Stratford Johns as Daddy Warbucks -- both actors, along with the musical itself, were nominated for Olivier Awards. But alas, the Evita juggernaut precluded Annie from receiving that year's top musical award.

So, having said all that, I have to confess that when I saw the current touring production of Annie earlier this year, I was severely disappointed. Maybe it's because I remember the outstanding performances, the spot-on American accents from the British stage, the incredibly intricate and moving set design and amazing choreography. While I truly admired the gumption displayed by young Marissa O'Donnell in the title role and Alene Robertson's deliciously inspired, wicked take on Miss Hannigan, the overall show felt flat and stale right down to the dancing and scenery.

While the children in my audience were none the wiser -- luxuriating and loving the story -- it's not nearly as much fun for the grown-ups. Not even Conrad John Schuck as Daddy Warbucks or Mackenzie Phillips as Lily St. Regis could infuse vitality in this show ostensibly about optimism and the American dream. If you're going to see Annie simply for a nostalgic trip down a musical memory lane, be forewarned.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets for the Annie touring production.

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