Will James Lapine Direct Annie on Broadway?

News   Will James Lapine Direct Annie on Broadway?
James Lapine apparently has a soft spot for orphans. Playbill.com has learned that the Tony Award-nominated director has been in harmonious huddles with the creators of Annie to talk about directing the 35th anniversary Broadway revival of the Tony-winning musical.

James Lapine
James Lapine Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Lapine has been in touch with Annie's Tony-winning composer Charles Strouse, lyricist Martin Charnin and book writer Thomas Meehan, the latter told Playbill.com. The revival, as previously reported, is due on Broadway in late 2012. No official announcement has been made about the production team.

The musical based on the "Little Orphan Annie" comic strip was a tonic for post-Watergate, post-Vietnam audiences who were seeking a brighter "Tomorrow." Charnin directed the original and all subsequent first-class tours and revivals (including a 1997 Broadway revival).

"Actually, he made a call to us asking to be involved, when the revival was announced," Meehan said of Lapine's interest. "We've talked, and we're certainly receptive to his ideas and approach. Our producer [Arielle Tepper Madover] is in talks with him now."

Lapine's Broadway directing credits include Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods and Passion, plus Dirty Blonde, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Diary of Anne Frank and Falsettos, among others. His most recent show was Sondheim on Sondheim, which he created and directed. For the record, he is a seven-time Tony nominee for directing.

Reports that this Annie will be getting a "facelift" are both true and untrue, according to Meehan. Mostly, it's a matter of "taking out the 'improvements,'" said the book writer. "Over the past 30 years, lots of 'adjustments' and rewritten lines have crept in there. What we want to do is return the show as close as we can to what it was in 1977." There is, Meehan said, a possibility that, in this version, you'll be seeing more of Miss Hannigan, the comically monstrous orphanage headmistress (among her zingers: "Why anyone would want to be an orphan, I'll never know!"). "That character evolved into a star part right off the bat. She is the primary plot-mover of the first act, but she's practically not on stage at all in the second act. Martin and Charles have been talking about giving her another number in Act Two, sort of to balance the books a little more."

Dorothy Loudon handily walked off with the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical — in direct competition with the 13-year-old title player, Andrea McArdle — for her well-masticated supporting portrayal of the villainous Miss Hannigan.

In July, at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in North Carolina, the 46-year-old McArdle tried her hand at the evil and trashy Miss Hannigan, but, if the production stills are any kind of barometer, she looks pretty enough to really be running The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Leapin' lizards, indeed!

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