SECOND FLOOR OF SARDI'S With Martin Charnin, Thomas Meehan and Charles Strouse: A Drink with the Annie Creators

By Robert Simonson
21 Mar 2013

Thomas Meehan
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Seems like the time might be ripe for a new Alan Jay Lerner biography. But these three theatre veterans don't know each other because of Alan Jay Lerner. They know each other because of Annie. Actually, that's not true, either. Charnin knew both Strouse and Meehan before the idea for turning Harold Gray's comic strip "Little Orphan Annie" into a musical was hatched. He got to know Meehan after he read a piece by Meehan in The New Yorker and optioned it for a 1970 television project starring Anne Bancroft, called "Annie, The Women in the Life of a Man." As for Strouse, he's known him "since Year 3."

All three live in the New York area — Strouse and Meehan in Manhattan, and Charnin in Mamaroneck. Does Annie cause them to see each other often?

"I think we're on the phone," said Strouse.

"We're on a phone," agreed Meehan. "Annie keeps us in touch. Martin was away for a while and we didn't see him much."

"I was away in Seattle for about seven years and only came back to New York last July," explained Charnin.

"One of the mysterious moves in the theatre," commented Strouse. "One I've never understood."

"He thought another coast might be a good idea," suggested Meehan.

"Well, I was in the middle of a divorce," explained Charnin. "The theatre community there was good for a while. But then you get the itch to come back. The reason I went out there specifically was to do the 30th-anniversary production of Annie, which opened in Seattle. It opened at the Paramount and it went out on the road for a few years. But we stayed. I didn't like it, however, in the final analysis. I'm a East Coast person."

"I knew it before you knew it," said Strouse, who's never strayed from the Upper West Side where he was raised.