This Day in the Arts — January 2 in Theatre History
January 1, 2013
We’re visiting the theatre again today for our trip into the history of the arts. On January 2, 1983, the musical Annie closed on Broadway after an amazing 2,377 performances (it opened on April 21, 1977). Over those years, there were many cast changes and the play moved to a different theatre 3 times after opening in the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre). It also played the ANTA Playhouse (now the August Wilson Theatre), the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, and the Uris Theatre (now the Gershwin Theatre). It won numerous awards, including seven Tonys.
Because Annie became a hit movie musical, many people who would never have had the chance to see it on Broadway are familiar with the show, and particularly with the iconic song, “Tomorrow.”
Today, instead of talking about the final performance of that first run, although that’s what brought us here, I’d like to tell you a bit about the musical’s beginnings.
If you were reading this blog in November, you’ll know I had the delightful experience of attending two performances of the musical The Great American Mousical, which was then in development at the Norma Terris Theatre, the second stage of Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut. Goodspeed has a history of providing a place for directors, creative teams, and casts to work on their production, to try out different things, and to polish the musical prior to it moving on to other things. To date, nineteen Goodspeed productions have gone on to Broadway!
In 1976, Annie had its world premiere on the main stage at Goodspeed, and went through just such a developmental process before that amazing and award-winning run on Broadway. I can imagine the creative team of director and lyricist Martin Charnin, composer Charles Strouse and book writer Thomas Meehan, watching the play night after night, gauging the audience reaction, changing things around, cutting things, adding things. The cast of such a production has to work hard, be flexible, and be fast learners, as notes about changes are given frequently, songs are cut, new songs or lines have to be learned. It must be a challenge, but an exhilarating one, to be in on something like Annie from the start, and to feel it beginning to take flight.
Goodspeed celebrated Annie‘s 35th anniversary in 2011 with a gala evening. This article from The Day in Connecticut makes fascinating reading. I found it very interesting to note that the dress rehearsal was interrupted by a hurricane — a hurricane made its presence felt in the run-up to Mousical, as well, although it was a couple of weeks before, thank goodness. This quote from the article shows just how important Goodspeed is to the development of musical theatre: “Charnin said, simply, ‘There would have been no development of ‘Annie’ without Goodspeed and the amount of time we were allowed to work on it.’ “
I’m sure no one involved in the developmental run of Annie in 1976 had any idea that when it went to Broadway it would have such a long and successful run, culminating on this date in 1983. Kudos are due to Goodspeed as well as to the creative team — and to producer Mike Nichols, who took a chance on the production. Annie may have closed on Broadway on January 2, 1983, but it lives on in many theatres and many hearts — and is now back on Broadway, delighting audiences all over again.
I wonder what Goodspeed production will make it to Broadway next?