Another musical that most everyone has heard of; the little curly red-headed orphan girl. I think my high school put on a production years before I was in high school; I vaguely remember a classmate when I was in elementary school being one of the orphans. It’s gone through a few iterations, but the most famous is the 1982 movie starring Albert Finney (Kincade in Skyfall [the Bond film], John Newton in Amazing Grace) as Oliver Warbucks, Carol Burnett (classic comedian with her own show from 1967 to 1978; she even made a few guest appearances in the rebooted Hawaii Five-0 ) as Miss Hannigan, Tim Curry (Clue [which happened to have been my senior class play; I was the dead cook], Rocky Horror Picture Show [that was just about the weirdest movie I ever tried to watch], Cardinal Richelieu in Disney’s Three Musketeers) as Rooster Hannigan, Bernadette Peters (would later be a part of Disney’s production of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella) as Lily St. Regis, and Aileen Quinn as Annie. Edward Herrmann (Gilmore Girls) also appears as FDR.
The story is set in 1933 New York City, at the Hudson St. Home for Girls. Annie is singing Maybe to herself, wondering about the family she has waiting out there and when they’ll come get her. One of the younger girls in the room, Molly, wakes up from a nightmare and calls for Annie. The other girls wake up and fight for a bit. But before they can all fall back asleep Miss Hannigan enters and orders them awake and to start their chores. She has trained them to say “We love you Miss Hannigan,” instead of any backtalk. The girls start It’s a Hard Knock Life for Us (some are skilled gymnasts). Annie hides in the laundry basket as another escape attempt. Outside, she meets a scruffy dog being tormented by a bunch of boys. She punches two boys in the face (she is a tough little girl) and adopts the Dumb Dog. She’s caught by a police officer and taken back to the orphanage where the girls name the dog Sandy. Miss Hannigan locks Annie in her closet, but before she can punish her, Miss Grace Farrell shows up, looking for an orphan to live at Oliver Warbucks’s mansion for a week. Annie comes out of hiding to persuade Grace to take her.
The staff take a liking to Annie right away and outline her new life for a week, after they correct Annie’s misinterpretation that she is there to work . Annie gleefully says I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here. Oliver Warbucks arrives and breaks up the song and dance. Grace namedrops Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Rockefeller, along with the President. He’s surprised by Annie and wants to exchange her for a boy; hosting an orphan is only done to help his image, but she charms him to keep her.
Back at the orphanage, Miss Hannigan is despairing over Little Girls (she spends a lot of her day drinking). Her brother, Rooster stops by with Lily St. Regis, asking for money. She sends him away; he steals from her anyhow.
Annie starts to endear herself to Warbucks, Sandy even helps stop an assassin, along with his two bodyguards. Grace explains to Annie that the man was a Bolsehvik. Another evening, Warbucks is persuaded by Annie and Grace, Let’s Go to the Movies. (Yes, those were the Rockettes dancing before the film). Annie falls asleep at the movie, so Warbucks carries her home and to bed, with some help from Grace. The next morning, Grace approaches Warbucks, well, he’s asked her to call him Oliver, and wants to adopt Annie. Oliver insists he is a businessman; he loves money and power, not children. But Grace is very pretty when she argues and he gives in. Grace cheerfully tells the others, We’ve Got Annie. Oliver takes the paperwork to the orphanage and argues with Miss Hannigan to get her to Sign the papers (Miss Hannigan also has a habit of attempting to flirt with any man that comes near the orphanage). But when Oliver presents a new locket (from Tiffany’s) and tells Annie the good news, she quietly informs him that she’s waiting for her birth parents to claim her. So Oliver issues a reward ($50,000).
Warbucks pitches the idea on the radio, after the catchy You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile ditty (reprised by the girls at the orphanage). As expected, a crowd appears at the mansion, so Oliver takes Annie to Washington D.C., to meet President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Oliver and the President argue over the New Deal and Annie cheers them up with her signature Tomorrow tune.
Rooster and Lily come up with the idea to pose as Annie’s parents and go to Miss Hannigan for specific details on Annie so they can easily claim and split the reward. Molly overhears the plan, as well as Miss Hannigan revealing that Annie’s parents died years ago and the front piece to her broken locket has been sitting in a box since the fire. It’ll be Easy Street for the trio. (Yes, they’re the bad guys, but it’s such a fun song; they let the actors have some fun). Once they have the money, Rooster intends to drop Annie in the river. Molly rallies some of the other girls to tell Annie, but they’re caught and locked in the closet while the adults head to the mansion. Oliver does not trust them, but they have the locket and Annie agrees to go with them. She’ll send her new clothes to the orphanage. Rooster and Lily pick up Hannigan once they’re outside the mansion and Rooster keeps a hold of Annie.
The girls manage to escape and run the length of Fifth Avenue to warn Warbucks; but they’re too late. He’s immediately on the phone with the police and his bodyguard, Punjab takes the copter. Annie talks Lily into stopping the truck so she “can go to the bathroom.” Instead, she grabs the check and runs. When she rips it up, Rooster swears he’ll kill her. Hannigan realizes her brother means it; she chases after him. Annie comes to a raised railroad bridge and begins climbing. Rooster knocks his sister down when she tries to talk him out of killing a little girl. Rooster climbs after Annie. At the top, he tries to drop her, but Punjab flies in and rescues Annie. With a kick, Rooster slides down the bridge to the waiting police.
Oliver throws a party for Annie, themed for the Fourth of July (the show typically ends at Christmas, but it would have cost too much to get that much fake snow during the summer filming schedule). He presents her with the new locket and when she takes it, she proclaims, “I love you, Daddy Warbucks.” Now, I Don’t Need Anything But You, the pair duets and Annie shows off her tap skills. The other girls are in attendance, nicely dressed, as is the president, and even Miss Hannigan. A reprise of Tomorrow closes the show.
Some of the songs are so much fun from this show, like Easy Street (probably my favorite song due to Curry, Peters, and Burnnett selling it), Hard Knock Life, and Fully Dressed Without a Smile. And every musical student knows how to belt out Tomorrow. It’s a family friendly show, certain to put a smile on your face. The grouchy businessman develops a heart, there may or may not be a budding romance between him and his secretary who is a fully fledged character in her own right, and I believe that Annie’s rough edges are softened by having people who honestly care about her. Miss Harrington isn’t completely bad, but she’s certainly not nice.
In 1999, Disney produced a version with Victor Garber as Oliver Warbucks, Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan, Alan Cumming (Boris in GoldenEye, Spy Kids, X-2) as Rooster, Kristin Chenoweth as Lily, and Audra McDonald (Broadway star and Madame Garderobe in the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie) as Grace Farrell. This version cut several songs and included NYC (which featured an appearance by Andrea McArdle, who originated the role of Annie on Broadway in 1977) and Something Missing. It keeps the Christmas timeline and the imposters never make it out the door with Annie. I am aware that there was another update made in 2014, but I haven’t seen the film and not keen, especially if it doesn’t keep the songs. In terms of the Disney productions of some musicals; I would personally rank them Cinderella, Annie, Music Man. Music Man is not a favorite show anyways, and Cinderella is happier.
Up Next: A more modern classic, Grease
(Anyone else think Queenie Goldstein looks like Lily St. Regis?)