Leapin' Lizards! Mini-Tour of Annie Offers U.S. Premiere of New Song for Warbucks, Starting Jan. 14

News   Leapin' Lizards! Mini-Tour of Annie Offers U.S. Premiere of New Song for Warbucks, Starting Jan. 14 A new staging of the musical, Annie, produced by Atlanta's Theatre of the Stars Jan. 14-18 prior to a mini tour, will surprise fans of the show with the inclusion of a new song.
Annie co-creators Martin Charnin (left) and Thomas Meehan
Annie co-creators Martin Charnin (left) and Thomas Meehan Photo by Aubrey Reuben

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

This new production of the 1977 smash is directed by Charnin. Marcia Lewis-Bryan (Chicago, Rags) and Conrad John Schuck (a longtime Annie veteran) play Miss Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks, 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 has been 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) is retained.

This marks the 16th time Charnin has directed the show, and he admits 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.

For information about the Atlanta run, call (404) 817-8700 or visit www.theaterofthestars.com.

Annie also plays the Palace in Columbus, OH, Feb. 3-8, the Masonic Temple in Detroit Feb. 10-15 and the Bushnell in Harford, CT Feb. 17-22.