How ‘Annie’ Captured Our Hearts

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After 40 years on the Broadway stage, the sun continues to shine for one of the most endearing stage characters of all time: Annie.

What makes this spunky little girl’s story resonate with each generation?

The original Annie first appeared in a comic strip, started in 1924 by Harold Gray, and ran in papers across America until 1968. Throughout the decades, Annie found her voice with readers by solving crimes, unraveling mysteries and fighting Nazi efforts. One of the early heroines of pop culture, Annie had blank eyeballs, designed so readers could impose their own feelings into the narrative.

The Annie story evolved to include a popular radio drama that lasted on air from 1931 through 1942. Each afternoon, children and teens across America gathered to hear the adventures of their favorite little orphan; her dog, Sandy; and her loving father, Daddy Warbucks. The show was initially sponsored by Ovaltine, who in turn created unique merchandising opportunities based on the character’s success—among them a secret decoder badge, as featured in the wildly popular, holiday classic movie A Christmas Story.

With all this attention to the success of Annie, Hollywood joined in, producing two adventure movies in the 1930s, a 1982 movie, a made-for-television remake in 1999 and a 2014 reboot. It was the release of the Broadway musical—40 years ago in 1977—that was the most successful Annie incarnation. In the original Broadway show’s nearly six-year run, five actors held the special role, including Andrea McArdle, who was the first Annie, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

No stranger to Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Annie is making her fourth appearance on its stage in November and December 2017. In the 1984 and 1995 productions, directors double-cast the roles of Annie and her lovable orphan friends. Not until 2002 was the piece cast in the way audiences recognize it today—with one actor in each role. The same will be true for the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre 2017 presentation: One cast is ready to sing for the 20,000-plus audience members joining the holiday magic.

It’s hard to narrow down the reasons Annie remains a beloved character for so many. Maybe it’s her heart and determination we enjoy—that “can do” spirit we often admire in our heroines. Maybe it’s because Annie allows us to become a part of tradition—to connect with something that brought our grandparents and parents such joy during their childhood. Maybe it’s simply because—for two hours this holiday season—you and your family will truly believe “the sun will come out tomorrow.”

That in itself is reason enough!

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
Annie the Musical
November 17 – December 17, 2017
Tickets: $37 - $18
Special Thanksgiving pricing: November 22 and 23 only
Tickets are available at GRCT.org or by calling 616.222.6650.

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