Annie Gets NYC-Aimed National Tour Starting Summer 2005

News   Annie Gets NYC-Aimed National Tour Starting Summer 2005
 
Annie, the smash Broadway musical, will be introduced to a new generation starting in summer 2005 when a New York-aimed tour launches in San Francisco, producer Rodger Hess told Playbill On-Line.

The 1977 show's lyricist, Martin Charnin, will direct the Equity production, to be produced by Ken Gentry, Rodger Hess, Tim and Terri Childs. The production will include a new song written for Daddy Warbucks, "Why Should I Change a Thing?," which premiered in an Australian staging and made its U.S. premiere in a 2004 mini tour.

Seattle was first mentioned as the start city for August 2005, but producer Hess later amended that to San Francisco in the same month.

Bookings for the 2005-06 tour are being lined up, with a hope to play Broadway or another major Manhattan venue in 2006, Hess said. No casting has been announced. Annie turns 30 in 2007.

A sequel, Annie Warbucks, plays in revival at Walnut Street Theatre this fall in Philadelphia.

* A recent staging of Annie, produced by Atlanta's Theatre of the Stars Jan. 14-18 prior to a mini tour, surprised fans of the show with the inclusion of a new song.

The tune, "Why Should I Change a Thing?," made its American premiere with the production that played Atlanta's Fox Theatre, and then Columbus, Hartford and Detroit. The tune by lyricist-director Martin Charnin and composer Charles Strouse, was penned for a 2000 Australian staging that starred Anthony Warlow.

Marcia Lewis-Bryan (Chicago, Rags) and Conrad John Schuck (a longtime Annie veteran) played Miss Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks in 2004, with 12-year-old Christiana Anbri as Annie, in the tale of the "little orphan" who finds a home with a Republican billionaire during the Depression.

In addition to the new song, an orphan chorus of 20 was added (unusual for the show, which is known for its chorus of half-dozen moppets), and "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover" (sometimes cut by regional directors) was retained.

This marked the 16th time Charnin directed the show, and he admitted that keeping the work fresh is important — as long as it doesn't hurt the balance of the show's proven craft.

"I haven't [directed] one in five years," he told Playbill On Line. "The last production I did was in Australia, back in 1999. I've only done the first-class [commercial] productions and the bus and trucks. I've never done a [not-for-profit] regional theatre production. The Australian production was one in which we had the opportunity to write a new song for Warbucks. It was done in Sydney and Melbourne, but what was done [in the U.S.] up until this [Atlanta] production has been the 'old version.'"

Is "Why Should I Change a Thing?" a trunk song or new?

"It's not a trunk song by any stretch of the imagination," Charnin said. "It was written because the guy who played Warbucks in Australia is a wonderful singer named Anthony Warlow. In a kind of genteel way, he said, 'You know it's really a shame that Warbucks doesn't sing as much as I'd like him to.' That was over a lunch meeting when I first cast him. I went away and about two months later I went looking for a place to put this Warlow/Warbucks song in.

"The big problem was to do it without disturbing the fabric of the show, without tilting it in the direction of being a musical about Daddy Warbucks. It has to stay a musical about Annie.

"On one of my train rides from my house in Connecticut to New York, I said to myself, 'Why should I change a thing?' That knocked me on the head: It's a good title for the song and the moment, and that is indeed what it is called. It comes at the end of the first act."

Warbucks' major ballad, "Something Was Missing," remains in the score, as do the other famous songs from the show ("Tomorrow," "It's the Hard-Knock Life"), as well as a sung counterpoint to the title song, "Annie" — the counterpoint lyric was added to the score after the Broadway opening and is not heard on the cast album.

Future licensed scripts and score of Annie will include the new song, Charnin said. A fresh song for Miss Hannigan was written for the 1997 Broadway revival that starred Nell Carter, but the song does not appear in any versions today.

"That song is gone, it's gone, it's gone," Charnin said. "Charles and I have often looked at one another and can't even remember the lyric or the tune."

The original Broadway production of Annie opened on April 21, 1977 and ran for 2,377 performances. It won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score.

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