ANNIE IS 40 YEARS OLD, AND THE SUN’LL COME OUT AT TMTP
By Bill Rudman
Some songs stay with us across generations, offering needed comfort and hope in times of turmoil: “Over the Rainbow,” for instance, or “When You Wish Upon a Star,” or “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Add “Tomorrow” to the short list of musical theater songs that inspire us — this one introduced on Broadway in 1977 by a darling 13-year-old named Andrea McArdle.
At the end of the month, TMTP celebrates Annie‘s 40th anniversary in our annual “Behind the Musical” concert, held at Stocker Arts Center and Chagrin Arts (see below for details).
We’ll recall the trials, tribulations and final triumph (2,377 performances) of Annie‘s birth on Broadway. The musical’s beloved score will be performed by Lexi Cowan singing the title role, Sheri Gross singing Miss Hannigan, Eric Fancher singing Rooster and Jessica Cope Miller singing Grace, with Nancy and Dan Maier at the onstage pianos alongside members of Lorain County Community College’s Civic Corale.
And featured artist and former Clevelander Gilgamesh Taggett will join us for a weekend break from Annie‘s current tour. For the past two years, Taggett has starred as Daddy Warbucks all over the country. (Click HERE to read more about our guest artist)
That tour is the 19th production of Annie staged since 1977 by its original director and lyricist, Martin Charnin, a longtime friend of TMTP. Charnin, who created the show with composer Charles Strouse and script writer Thomas Meehan, is the man who had the idea in the first place.
Makes perfect sense now, but describing the road to Broadway as an uphill battle is an understatement: Hardly anyone believed there was a musical in “Little Orphan Annie” — a dusty relic of a comic strip. It took Martin six years to get the show produced.
But he was sure that the musical’s story of a child searching for her parents during the early days of the Roosevelt administration would strike a chord with audiences of all ages.
“The thing is, Annie as a character was iconic even then, having been created by Harold Gray in 1925,” Martin told me. “And in 1977 there was contemporary resonance to what we were doing. In our hearts and in our souls, Americans were in a deep depression. We had only recently come out of Watergate and the war in Vietnam. So as I kept insisting to my collaborators, Charles and Tom, we couldn’t be a cartoon on stage. As entertaining as it is, Annie is about real people with real feelings. It’s also about longing and yearning and the need for family — the need to connect and have someone you can call your own.”
And what about The Song? It’s so well-known that it’s a cliché. And yet clichés tend to become clichés because they are true, and like the entire show, “Tomorrow” has been performed in 28 different languages. The sentiment is expresses is universal.
“It’s the spirit of the musical,” says Martin. “It’s about a little girl’s optimism, her spunk, her belief that we all need a tap on the shoulder every now and again to dispel the cynicism that invariably creeps in on life.”
“And you know what?” he adds. “That little song now applies to anything that isn’t working out in America at this moment. It’s an anthem toward the future. It says, ‘Stick it out — hang on, hang on.'” Sounds like particularly good advice in 2017.
Saturday, April 29, 2017 | 7 PM
Stocker Arts Center:
General: $20 | Children (18 and under): $10
Tickets available through the Stocker arts Center Box Office.
Call 440-366-4040 or visit StockerArtsCenter.com
Sunday, April 30, 2017 | 3 PM
General: $35/$31 | TMTP Members: $32/$28 | Students (18 and under): $10
Tickets available through TMTP’s Box Office.
Call 216-245-TMTP (8687) or visit MusicalTheaterProject.org