Young Annie’s a sweethearted orphan
In New York, as sharp as a tack.
Her parents left her with a note and a locket
That make her dream they will come back.
The orphanage isn’t too homey.
In fact, it’s all work and no play.
Her “caretaker” Hannigan hates little girls,
Who happen to fill her whole day.
When Annie escapes for the first time,
She finds a dog, Sandy, and sings,
But soon she is captured and back with Miss H,
Who plans several new sufferings.
But then good luck shines upon Annie
As they get a visit from Grace,
The personal aide to rich Oliver Warbucks,
A tycoon who wants to save face.
For Christmas, he’ll take in an orphan,
And Annie is given the prize.
She is unaccustomed to servants and fun
But likes it, to no one’s surprise.
While Oliver Warbucks seems stodgy,
She charms her way into his heart.
Before Christmas comes, he decides to adopt her,
In hopes that they never will part.
But Annie still hopes for her parents;
Thus Warbucks then puts out a test.
He sets a reward for her folks but attracts
Just fakers, including the best.
For Hannigan’s brother is greedy,
So “Rooster” and she play the Mudges.
They fool everyone into thinking they’re real,
And Annie is sad as she budges.
But Rooster’s girlfriend blows their cover
And sends them all packing to jail.
So Annie’s adopted, as are all her friends,
And thus ends this musical tale.

For my list, I chose the 1999 Disney television version of the 1977 musical Annie instead of the 1982 film version simply because I saw it first. As I first watched the Wonderful World of Disney, this film became an indelible part of my childhood. It may not have Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Tim Curry, and Bernadette Peters, who filled iconic roles quite well in the 1982 film, but it still boasts several big stars. These include Kathy Bates as the villainous Miss Hannigan, Victor Garber as “Daddy” Warbucks, Alan Cumming (known to me as Floop and Nightcrawler) as “Rooster,” Kristen Chenoweth as Rooster’s girlfriend Lily, and Audra McDonald as Grace. While McDonald’s casting seems out-of-place considering the time period, it’s interesting that she starred in this TV musical as well as the more recent revival of such productions, the Carrie Underwood version of The Sound of Music, in which McDonald played the Mother Abbess.

Annie is certainly a classic musical, but I couldn’t help but reflect on why. The typical Broadway music is certainly catchy with clever lyrics and strong end notes, particularly the songs “Tomorrow” and “N.Y.C.” Yet it doesn’t have the uniqueness or the masterful acting of musicals like Les Miserables, The Music Man, or My Fair Lady. I suppose what makes it unique is that, unlike most other musicals, the main character and several main singers are real children. These pipsqueak performers have just the right amount of heartwarming charm and sincerity to make the musical something special, just like Annie endears herself to Mr. Warbucks. And, of course, the title role (Alicia Morton in this film) is the most enchanting of all.

Though it left out several unnecessary songs, I also like this TV version because it not only sticks closer to the play’s plot but also often feels like actually watching a Broadway play. Whereas some of the songs in the 1982 Annie became sprawling numbers that could never have happened on a stage, the ones in this film feel contained but as energetic as something seen on Broadway. Some may consider this smaller feel a liability, but I think of it as a strength.

In addition to the musical winning multiple Tony Awards, this 1999 film won two Emmys for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Music Direction. It was one of the last TV musicals for a while too, as far as I know. The Sound of Music has luckily rekindled interest in such musicals, just as Les Mis has in the film industry. With an updated version of Annie to be released later this year (starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx), I’d say the cinematic musical is alive and well.

Best line: (Warbucks, after inviting FDR to Christmas dinner) “I wonder what Democrats eat.”

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 8
Watchability: 8
Other (music): +4
TOTAL: 40 out of 60

Next: #210 – The Poseidon Adventure

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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