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Theatre / Annie

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In 1972, lyricist Martin Charnin bought the rights to the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. With book writer Thomas Meehan and composer Charles Strouse, he created the Broadway musical Annie in 1977, directed by Charnin and produced by Mike Nichols. After 2,377 performances, four national tours, and five Broadway Annies, the musical ended its New York City run in 1983. There have since been two revivals marking the show's 20th and 35th anniversaries (in 1997 and 2012) on top of numerous other professional and amateur productions.

New York City, 1933. Eleven-year-old Annie has been living in cruel Miss Hannigan's orphanage her whole life. After her latest unsuccessful escape attempt (during which she meets a stray dog she christens Sandy), secretary Grace Farrell decides to take the child home to temporarily live with billionaire Oliver Warbucks over the Christmas season as a publicity stunt for the grumpy tycoon. The plucky orphan worms her way into the hearts of the Mr. Warbucks and his staff, and even the President of the United States! Even though Mr. Warbucks wants to adopt her, he agrees to help her search for her real parents, who left half of a locket with her when they dropped her off at the orphanage as a baby. Miss Hannigan's brother and his sleazy girlfriend pose as Annie's parents to gather the reward that Warbucks has offered to Annie's real parents.

In 1982, John Huston directed a film version of Annie, which made a goodly number of changes to the play: comic strip characters Punjab and Asp are supporting players, Sandy gets more screentime, songs are added and dropped, and the climax is peril-filled. Annie was played by Aileen Quinn, heading up an All-Star Cast of adult players. E.T. kept it from being the Summer Blockbuster it was intended to be, but it became an early VHS video store staple. A lot of '80s kids have the damn thing memorized.

In 1989, Charnin reunited the old team and they created a sequel to the play, Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge. Two name changes, tons of rewrites, and three Annies later, the play ended up off-Broadway as Annie Warbucks in 1993. Didn't know of its existence before coming across this article? Don't worry. It made such a small, unnoticeable splash, you're probably hearing about it for the first time right here.

In 1995, a Made-for-TV Movie called Annie: A Royal Adventure! premiered on ABC. It is presumably a sequel to the 1982 film (at least that's how IMDb recognizes it), but it has none of the same cast and is not a musical (unless you count a single reprise of "Tomorrow" at the end).

In 1999, ABC-Disney produced a Made-for-TV Movie version of Annie, which made its own share of changes to the stage show. It starred Alicia Morton, with Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan.

The 2006 Documentary Life After Tomorrow revisits many of the women who played orphans in the stage casts.

Annie (2014) is another movie adaptation of this musical, released Christmas 2014. It contains some new songs by Jay-Z and Sia and stars Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne and Jamie Foxx.

Annie Live!, a live televised production from NBC, aired on December 2, 2021. It features Harry Connick Jr. as Oliver Warbucks, Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace, and newcomer Celina Smith in the titular role.

The musical includes examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • In the 2012 Broadway revival, Tessie is played by a bilingual Korean-American actress, so a new line is added when Hannigan attempts to give Grace any other orphan besides Annie: when she presents Kate she says "This one speaks Korean" to which Tessie frowns at.
    • Annie Live! portrays Warbucks as a skilled pianist, just like his actor Harry Connick Jr. He gets to tickle the ivories in both "Something Was Missing" and "I Don't Need Anything But You".
      Annie: Gee Mr. Warbucks, you play the piano?
      Warbucks: Not if you ask my good friend George Gershwin.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In the novelization by Thomas Meehan (one of the creators of the musical), nearly the first half of the novel is dedicated to Annie's life in the orphanage and then to her life on the New York streets after she runs away. A plot is added about her being taken in by greedy and lazy restaurant owners who use her as free child labor, and her experiences with the homeless people in the Hooverville are expanded on. Annie is gone from the orphanage for an indeterminate amount of time in the musical (but presumably not very long), whereas in the novelization she's gone for nearly a year.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the comic strip, the orphanage was run by the cruel Miss Asthma. The musical changes her to Miss Hannigan.
  • Adaptation Amalgamation: Annie Live! incorporates elements from the 1982 film that weren't in the original show; the movie-exclusive songs "Sign" and "We Got Annie" are included, as is Hannigan's Heel–Face Turn at the end. Even the 1999 Disney version gets a few nods, like Grace singing the "Maybe" reprise to a tearful Annie.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt. While he isn't any more or less heroic than most media adaptations portray him as here his heroism here is hugely ironic given the source material. Little Orphan Annie's creator, Harold Gray, loathed FDR and the New Deal, and often went out of his way to let readers know this. Anything in the original strip that might remind readers of FDR, his administration, or the New Deal would always be portrayed in the most negative light possible (FDR's theme song, "Happy Days Are Here Again" would be sung exclusively by the villains in the strip). When FDR was re-elected for a fourth term in 1944, Gray got so depressed, he had Daddy Warbucks Killed Off for Real, dying in despair. When FDR died in 1945, Gray was so overjoyed he had Daddy brought Back from the Dead. To have FDR depicted as an old, dear friend of Daddy Warbucks' in the musical is hilarious to anyone aware of all this. Some adaptations have Warbucks decide that despite his personal animosity of FDR that there is no sense in freezing out the president of the United States, and it ends up paying off big time.
    • The 2021 telecast has Miss Hannigan rat out Rooster's and Lily's scheme to kill Annie. In return, she receives a relatively lighter punishment than she did on stage: Instead of going to jail, she loses ownership of the orphanage in favor of helping build roadways and bridges for the New Deal.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Hannigan's comic counterpart Miss Asthma may have been stern and coldhearted, but she was never outright malicious. In the show, she openly despises the orphans under her care, and takes part in Rooster's Evil Plan to kill Annie and reap Warbucks' $50,000 reward.
  • Adapted Out: Warbucks' bodyguards in the comic strips, Punjab and the Asp, do not appear in the musical, although they are included in the 1982 film. There was also a Mrs. Warbucks in the comics, who is completely absent here.
  • Age Lift:
    • Unlike her elderly comic strip counterpart Miss Asthma, Hannigan is usually depicted as being middle-aged at the most.
    • The exact age order of the orphans has varied from production to production, though Molly is always the youngest. In the script's stage directions, Duffy and July are the oldest (both 13), followed by Pepper (12), Tessie (10), Kate (7) and Molly (6). But in the original Broadway cast, Pepper was the oldest orphan (14), and many other productions (including the movie versions) have followed the Original Cast Precedent to make her the oldest too.
  • Alto Villainess: Miss Hannigan.
  • Alternate Continuity: Annie and Warbucks are here, but everything else is wholly different from the comics.
  • Animal Companion: Sandy for Annie.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Annie becomes this when she gets to meet FDR whom she looked up to, her optimism inspiring the president to come up with the New Deal.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Molly is this as the smallest and youngest of the orphans. Pepper tries to pick on Molly for having loud nightmares; this gets the other girls including Duffy on her case and they start fighting until Annie breaks them up. Annie then tucks in Molly and sings her to sleep.
  • Been There, Shaped History: As mentioned above, Annie, Warbucks and co. crossed paths with a number of notable real-world people, especially FDR. The girl's cheerful demeanour and optimism was depicted to be the inspiration for President Roosevelt to enact the New Deal, aiming to bring the United States out of the Great Depression.
  • Big Applesauce: Detailed in Warbucks' song, "NYC".
  • Bowdlerize: The original Broadway production had a scene where Hannigan physically struck Annie with a paddle. Understandably, this was removed from the script for future productions.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Lily St. Regis. In the 1999 film, she’s so brainless that she’s left behind to look after the orphans while Miss Hannigan pretends to be Annie’s mother. This backfires on them big time since the orphans take advantage of Lily’s slip of the tongue and ruin the whole scheme!
  • Brick Joke: Annie reminds Miss Hannigan about the note her parents left her, promising to return. Miss Hannigan shoots back with "That was 1922, this is 1933." After a policeman returns Annie to the orphanage, Miss Hannigan yells, "The next time you walk out of that door, it'll be 1953!"
  • Canon Foreigner: Grace Farrell, Rooster Hannigan, Lily St. Regis, and Annie's orphan friends never appeared in the original comic strips.
  • Catchphrase:
    • In-universe, "We love you, Miss Hannigan" is forced onto the girls by Miss Hannigan.
    • Tessie, one of the orphans, is defined by her constant cries of "Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!"
    • Annie has "Leapin' Lizards!" which was her catchphrase from the original comic, although she only says it once throughout the entire show.
  • Children as Pawns: Rooster and Lily pose as Annie's parents so they can take Warbucks's reward for themselves, using Miss Hannigan's inside information.
  • Children Do the Housework: Annie and the orphans do all the housework in the orphanage, since Miss Hannigan hates having to care for them, using cleaning as a punishment for any slight misdemeanor, as shown in "It's a Hard-Knock Life". Annie is so used to he treatment that her first thought upon entering the Warbucks mansion is where she'll start polishing.
  • Composite Character: The 2021 telecast combines Bert Healy with Fred the ventriloquist; as a result, Wacky the puppet now accompanies Bert during "Never Fully Dressed".
  • Corporal Punishment: In the original 1977 script, Miss Hannigan spanks Annie with a paddle when she catches her trying to run away from the orphanage. For later revivals, this moment was cut.
  • Darker and Edgier: In contrast to the campy portrayal in the musical, the 1980 novelisation depicts Annie in a Dickensian manner, touting it as a 20th-century, gender-flipped Oliver Twist, complete with child labour, abuse and other such mature references, not to mention a few mild profanities thrown in. Then again, series creator Harold Gray is no stranger to putting the orphan in such a scenario anyway.
  • Dark Reprise: "Maybe", as Annie is about to leave with her "real" parents and wonders if staying with Warbucks would have been better.
  • Dumb Blonde: Lily St. Regis.
  • Enforced Plug: Spoofed when Annie and Warbucks go on a radio show to advertise for Annie's parents.
  • Evil Orphanage Lady: Miss Hannigan runs the orphanage where Annie lives. She drinks and mistreats the girls under her charge, telling them not to sing, and even having a whole song about how she hates little girls. Later she helps organize a plot to kidnap Annie for money.
  • Fiery Redhead: Annie.
    • Same goes for Agatha Hannigan who doubles as an Evil Redhead with hair that's more literally red rather than Annie's orange.
  • Freudian Excuse: The lyrics of "Easy Street" imply that Miss Hannigan and Rooster learned their villainous ways from their mother.
    I remember the way our sainted mother
    Would sit and croon us a lullaby
    She'd say, "Kids, there's a place that's like no other"
    You gotta get there before you die
    You don't get there by playing from the rule book
    You stack the aces, you roll the dice
    Mother dear, oh we know you're...down there listenin'
    How can we follow your sweet advice
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Annie, and all her friends at the orphanage.
  • Hail to the Thief: "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover".
  • Historical Domain Character: Franklin D. Roosevelt is an onstage character and there's a song about his New Deal, "A New Deal for Christmas." His cabinet members Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins, Cordell Hull, and Henry Morgenthau Jr.; and his political advisor Louis Howe also make onstage appearances, as does Warbucks' old friend Judge Louis Brandeis. Herbert Hoover doesn't appear himself but is sarcastically thanked by characters for The Great Depression in "We'd Like To Thank You, Herbert Hoover." Warbucks' other unseen friends and allies include J. Edgar Hoover, Eliot Ness, Bernard Baruch, Harpo Marx, John D. Rockefeller, Mahatma Gahndi, Babe Ruth, and Madame Chiang Kai-shek.
  • I Can Explain: Shortly after Annie's attempt to escape from Miss Hannigan's orphanage, Grace arrives and announces that she has been sent to talk to Miss Hannigan by the orphanage's board of directors. Miss Hannigan is in full self-justifying flight before Grace has a chance to explain that actually she's just come to arrange for one of the orphans to spend some time with Warbucks.
  • Iconic Outfit: Annie has her classic red and white dress while Warbucks has his tuxedo, both taken straight from the comic strips, though they don't sport these outfits until Act II.
  • "I Hate" Song: "Little Girls", in which the villainous Miss Hannigan, who runs an orphanage, sings about how much she hates...little girls.
  • Illegal Guardian: Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis (or Miss Hannigan in the 1999 film) pretend to be Little Orphan Annie's "real parents" to scam reward money out of Daddy Warbucks.
  • Incredibly Long Note: "Tomorrow" is full of these.
    • "I just stick out my chin and grin, and sayyyyyy, ohhhhhhhh..."
    • "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya! Tomorrow! You're always a DAYYYYYYY AAAAAAAAAWAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!"
  • Ironic Echo: Miss Hannigan punishes any orphan she suspects of being dishonest: "What's the one thing I've taught you? Never tell a lie!" At the end, as Miss Hannigan is being carted away by the authorities, she pleads with Annie to witness that she's treated the orphans well; Annie's response is to apologize and remind her that there's one thing she's taught them...
  • "I Want" Song: "Maybe".
  • The Makeover: Annie's transformation from raggedy orphan to pretty little girl in "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here".
  • Miming the Cues: While Miss Farrell is telling Miss Hannigan what kind of orphan she wants to borrow (age, etc.), Annie gives her hand signals so she can narrow it down to an orphan just like Annie.
  • Minor Living Alone: Some adaptations play up that Annie Didn't Think This Through with her successful attempt to get on the streets in New York City. She only has a thin red sweater for the cold weather, with no food let alone any lead on how to find her parents. The cop that brings her back to Miss Hannigan points out that it was lucky they found her within a day, because she could have frozen to death.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: In the Broadway and touring productions, the recycling of Annies and orphans was usually matched with the onset of puberty, as is usually the case with child actors in long-running shows.
  • Novelization: One from 1980 for the stage version, written by the script's author Thomas Meehan himself, and one for the 1982 film version by Leonore Fleischer. Both feature a fair amount of Adaptation Expansion. The 2014 film also has a junior novelization.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Rooster. Subverted near the end when it's revealed his real name is Daniel.
    • The orphans Pepper and Duffy, assuming those aren't their actual names (Pepper is sometimes used as a real-world given name, but rarely, while Duffy is an Irish boys' name).
    • July has a variant. The novelization of the 1982 film says that her parents left her at Miss Hannigan's as a baby with a note that said, "This iz our dotter July." Presumably they meant "Julie" and misspelled it, but July—the spelling and pronunciation—stuck. The novelization goes on to say July claims Independence Day as her birthday.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Her broken locket.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The orphanage run by Miss Hannigan.
  • Parental Abandonment: Annie's parents left her on the orphanage doorstep. The novelization of the 1982 film has this as the case for July as well.
  • Parental Love Song:
    • Warbucks's solo "Something Was Missing" confesses his newfound parental love for Annie.
    • "I Don't Need Anything But You" is a duet between Annie and Daddy Warbucks about how glad they both are that they've been reunited and the adoption has gone ahead.
      Together at last
      Together forever
      We're tying a knot
      They never can sever
      I don't need sunshine now
      To turn my skies to blue
      I don't need anything but you!
  • Plucky Girl: Annie. "The sun'll come out tomorrow!"
  • The Pollyanna: Annie's defining character trait is her optimism.
  • Race Lift:
    • In the 1997 revival, African-American performer Nell Carter was cast as Miss Hannigan, notably making her the first black actress play the role on Broadway.
    • In the 2012 revival, J. Elaine Marcos (a Filipina actress) played Lily St. Regis.
    • In the 2021 telecast, African-American Celina Smith played Annie, African-American Taraji P. Henson and Tituss Burgess played Miss Hannigan and Rooster, Filipina/Native Hawaiian Nicole Scherzinger played Grace, and some other African-American or Asian-American actors joined the chorus.
  • The Reveal: Annie's parents were David and Margaret Bennett. Warbucks's investigators found that they were going to come back for her but were tragically killed. While Annie is bummed to find out that Miss Hannigan was right and she is an orphan, she takes solace in the fact that they didn't abandon her and that she wasn't taken away by conmen.
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: During the scene where Warbucks' servants are showing Annie around the mansion and assuring her that her every wish is their command, she says "Will Someone Pinch Me Please" to express her amazement — and one of the servants does.
  • Searching for the Lost Relative: Titular character manages to ask Franklin D. Roosevelt to search for her parents, using her trinket as a clue; unfortunately, the FBI find evidence pointing to their deaths in Alaska.
  • Ship Tease: Warbucks and Grace.
  • Team Mom: Annie is this for the orphan girls, particularly Molly, the youngest.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: Quite a few of the musical numbers, including "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile", where the orphans make a big number out of a radio toothpaste commercial.
  • The Trap Parents: After Daddy Warbucks offers a reward for information about Annie's parents, they turn up to claim her and take her away; but it's not really her parents, just con artists trying for the reward. Played with a bit in that Warbucks and company were aware of this possibility and were rightfully suspicious of the many couples who showed up claiming to be Annie's parents. The con artists slip through only because Miss Hannigan gave them confidential information about Annie.
  • Two Halves Make a Plot: Annie's Orphan's Plot Trinket is a half-locket left by her parents, who she assumes have the other half, so they can claim her when they find her again.
  • Villain Song:
    • "Little Girls", Hannigan's big solo where she sourly scorns the little girls under her care.
    • "Easy Street" and its reprise, sung by Hannigan, her brother Rooster, and his girlfriend Lily. Together, the three hatch a crooked get-rich-quick scheme involving Annie and Warbucks.
    • The 1997 Broadway revival actually included a new song for Hannigan, written exclusively for her actress Nell Carternote . Titled "You Make Me Happy", the song takes places during the scene where Grace informs Hannigan about Warbucks' plan to adopt Annie, to which the latter responds with pure anger and disdain.
  • Villain Has a Point: Miss Hannigan cruelly tells Annie that her parents left her at the orphanage ten years ago, so she may as well be an orphan since they haven't come back. Annie finds out to her consternation that her parents died before they could come get her, making Miss Hannigan technically right.
  • Wealthy Ever After: Annie becomes the adopted daughter of the wealthy Oliver Warbucks by the end of the story.
  • Welcoming Song: "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" has Grace and the household staff welcoming Annie to the Warbucks estate.
  • Writer on Board: The musical takes the time to glorify FDR and the New Deal, which was the opposite of Harold Gray's free-market politics. All movie versions have eliminated the two most overtly political songs, "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover" and "A New Deal for Christmas". The 1999 version cuts out the political content entirely. The 2014 version drops the Depression setting, making this a non-issue. 2021's Annie Live! is the first screen version to restore those two songs.
  • You Can Say That Again:
    Annie (sings): Yesterday was plain awful.
    Warbucks (sings): You can say that again.
    Annie (sings): Yesterday was plain awful.
    Both (sing): But that's not now, that's then.

Adaptations with their own trope pages:

  • Annie (1982, Aileen Quinn as Annie)
  • Annie (1999, Alicia Morton as Annie)
  • Annie (2014, Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie)

In addition to tropes shared with the original musical, the stage sequel, Annie Warbucks, has examples of: