I loved Annie.
Not just the musical. I’m talking about Annie herself.
Her name was A***** L*******, and she was the star of our local community theater production of the cartoon-turned-musical. And she was also my first big crush.
Looking back, my elementary schoolboy Annie attraction wasn’t just because the young lady playing her was super talented and adorable. I now realize I had fallen in love with the character herself. How can you not go head-over-heels for an orphan who believes her one dream is “maybe far away or maybe real nearby” and is “never fully dressed without a smile”? If only we all had that kind of optimism.
The spirit of Annie had a lot to do with the genius of Martin Charnin, the man who not only wrote the lyrics, but also directed the original production (and countless thereafter), secured the original rights, put together the rest of the writing team, and just made the whole effin’ thing happen.
We lost Martin over the weekend, and although I only met him a few times, I wanted to pay tribute to a man who gave us one of the biggest musical successes of the 20th century (Annie is right up there with Cats in terms of recognition) and who had the same never-give-up attitude of the orphan he made so famous.
See, as I was reading his obituary on Playbill, I was reminded that Martin’s first writing credit on Broadway was in 1963 for Hot Spot . . . which ran for 43 performances. Gulp. Then he wrote Zenda . . . which you’ve also never heard of . . . because the Broadway production was canceled when the show was out of town.
Don’t worry, he went on to do a third show . . . Mata Hari . . . which David Merrick also canceled out of town. Instead of giving up, he and his composer brought the show to Off-Broadway themselves, under a totally different title.
It wasn’t until 1977 that Annie finally arrived on Broadway . . . 14 years after Martin’s first “failure.”
And I’m sure he’d tell you today that he never would have written “Tomorrow” without all those shows you’ve never heard of that came beforehand . . . and that the only way he wrote it was really, truly believing that the sun WOULD come out tomorrow for Annie . . . and for himself.
The sun has just set on his incredible life and career, although thankfully, his words will echo throughout the halls of theaters for a long time to come.
Martin, I want to say thank you for inspiring me yesterday and continuing to inspire me today . . . as I look to my own tomorrow.
Curious how a show like Annie gets to Broadway, from the origination of the idea all the way to opening night? Click here to check out my free Road to Broadway webinar.