With the release of the new Annie DVD this month, it seems like the perfect time to talk about the book Annie! Usually my old favorites are stories that started as books, not as comic strips, or Broadway shows, or any other kind of media, but let’s make an exception in this case.
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Eleven year old Annie is an orphan, living in the New York City Municipal Orphanage, Girls’ Annex under the care of Miss Hannigan. She’s the only girl in the orphanage with parents. True, they left her there, but they also left a note that they were coming back to get her. So Annie waits. And deals with Miss Hannigan.
The other girls are sometimes kind, sometimes mean, but they all stick together when it comes to Miss Hannigan. For some reason though, Annie seems to be the girl she picks on the most, with extra chores, less food, and more punishments. And one day, Annie has had enough. She is not going to wait until she’s sixteen to be released, she’s going to run away and take her life into her own hands. So she does.
Even though she has nothing but a raggedy sweater in the New York winter cold, Annie still thinks she’s better off on the streets. She finds a place to stay in the warm basement of a restaurant in exchange for washing windows and cleaning. When she finds a dog and ends up in Hooverville, she still thinks she’s doing okay. But then she’s caught and brought back to the orphanage, just in time to catch her first really big break. She’s waiting to be punished when Grace Farrell, the representative of millionaire Oliver Warbucks, shows up to take in an orphan and improve his public image. For some reason, Miss Farrell and Annie connect, and the elegant woman brings Annie (and her dog) to Mr. Warbucks’ mansion.
Can Annie convince Oliver Warbucks that a girl orphan is just as good as a boy orphan? Can she find a home with Mr. Warbucks and his staff? Or will the dream of finding her real parents win out over the new life she’s living?
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Of course, you probably know the ending. Unless you’ve been living without a TV or DVD player for all your life, you’ve most likely seen it in one version or another. Annie started this incarnation as a Broadway musical in 1977, starring Andrea McArdle, Reid Shelton and Dorothy Loudon. It played to sold-out audiences, and everyone was humming the songs. (And oh, I wish they had made a video recording, not just a soundtrack, available with the original cast!) In 1982, Annie was made into a movie musical, starring Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney and Carol Burnett. In 1999, the Disney Channel made an Annie movie starring Alicia Morton, Victor Garber and Kathy Bates. (Just FYI, this is my favorite version.) Just last year, the newest version of Annie came out starring Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. That’s a lot of Annies!
Thomas Meehan wrote the script for the original Broadway musical Annie. After the success of the musical, he adapted his script into a novel for young readers. Annie, the book, is a fun take on the Little Orphan Annie story. In the forward to the book, he tells of how he started working on the story for the musical in 1972, and went to the source for inspiration. The Little Orphan Annie comic strip ran in newspapers from 1924 to 1968, and was at the height of its popularity during and right after the Great Depression. The story of a irrepressible and plucky orphan who wouldn’t let circumstances defeat her obviously drew a lot of admirers in a time where things were not always happy.
When Mr. Meehan finished researching, he realized that he basically had some great characters, but no story. So he wrote his own story for Annie, including many elements from the comics and from the time period, added a little bit of Dickens and a mystery to be solved. However, when he finished his script, it would have taken almost four hours to perform! So he had to pare it down to a two hour show.
Luckily for readers, in 1980, he decided to take all the extra story elements that had been cut from the performance, weave it back into the storyline of the musical, and publish Annie: A novel based on the beloved musical. And he won a Tony Award for the Best Book of a Musical.
So if you like the musical Annie, and you’d like to see a little more background for Annie, her friends, her family and her…Miss Hannigan, then you’ll enjoy this book. It was reissued in 2013, but for some reason, we were the only Minuteman Library to buy it! I do miss the illustrations from the 1980 original, but I do love the added introduction. And now, I think I’ll go sing (to myself!) Tomorrow…
Enjoy! And if you read Annie, let me know if you liked it.