The story of ‘Annie’ stars in a new musical, ‘Annie Live!’

Written by Nathalie Atkinson, CNN Whether you’ve lived in New York since the late 1970s or you just moved here a couple of years ago, chances are good that you’ve seen “Annie.” The musical…

The story of ‘Annie’ stars in a new musical, ‘Annie Live!’

Written by Nathalie Atkinson, CNN

Whether you’ve lived in New York since the late 1970s or you just moved here a couple of years ago, chances are good that you’ve seen “Annie.” The musical has been here longer than most of us have been alive.

In fact, the show has been running for more than a century, and with a longevity that continues to impress. Famed Broadway musical director and composer Charles Strouse and writer Martin Charnin (who also collaborated on shows like “Chicago” and “A Chorus Line”) are responsible for two productions of “Annie.”

The original cast recording, from the late 1950s, is still widely available on cassette tapes. In fact, it is widely believed that the cassette disc was invented in order to force theatre companies to use recordable diskettes. The 1986-90 Broadway production was directed by Harold Prince and featured Placido Domingo and film star Kathleen Turner. The star of this production was Jamie Foxx.

“Annie” is a show that is about growth and development. A stifling, broken down, struggling orphan whose emancipation is a struggle is slowly but surely she is rescued from her self-destruction by Ella, who matches Annie’s hardiness with Ella’s passion and drives.

It is a classic in that it is genuinely heartwarming. It is also a well-crafted musical that at times manages to express complex ideas, and in which there is an underlying tension between the vulgarity of the song’s lyrics and the childlike joy of watching a kindhearted doggone grown-up woman rescue and save a child.

In her review of “Annie Live!” Princess Anna dismisses the sentiment of the musical as “willful…misanthropic” and the subject matter as “hanky-panky”. Instead she finds fault with the production itself, which she calls “fancy”. Anna praises the production values but slams the score. She says that “this musical is all about the show that it aims to be, and you can’t let your fingers do the celebrating — you have to keep focusing on the props.”

She also finds fault with the story, saying that it is “not worth the blustering and exaggerated words”. Nor is she impressed by the subject matter, which is described as a “choir of princesses”. Rather, she finds fault with the story’s “cartoonish romance.”

In the tradition of previous versions of “Annie,” the video library of this performance is available on YouTube, giving you a chance to feel what the song sounds like:

Of course, not everyone has the capacity to remember the original production. However, most of us can remember seeing “Annie” regularly at a youth theatre, movie theatre or video store. “Annie Live!” brings it back to life, and for this many of us, it is like coming home again. “Annie Live!” makes us want to be a little bit back in time.

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