Martin Charnin Takes Helm of New Annie Tour; Recent Broadway Revival Shelved

By Adam Hetrick
24 Feb 2014

Martin Charnin
Martin Charnin
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

A new national tour of Annie, staged by original lyricist-director Martin Charnin will launch this fall, presenting what the writers feel is a return to their original vision of the heartfelt musical comedy that won the 1977 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Producers of the recent Broadway revival of Annie, which opened Nov. 8, 2012, at the Palace Theatre, had previously announced a tour of that production to launch during the 2014-15 season. Helmed by James Lapine, critics responded coolly to the Broadway return of the musical charmer, which took a more serious approach to the material based on the classic comic strip. It closed Jan. 5 at the Palace after 38 previews and 487 performances. The production did not recoup its investment and garnered only one Tony nomination: Best Musical Revival.

Original director-lyricist Charnin, along with composer Charles Strouse and book writer Thomas Meehan, all of whom won Tony Awards for their work, regrouped to assemble a new design team and approach for the tour that will harken to the tone of the original Broadway production of Annie, which ran 2,377 performances and has enjoyed numerous national tours.

"The entire creative team (Tom, Charles, and I) simply had to restore the charm and the magic of the musical, that has endured for lo, these many years, and that seemed to veer off-course in the recent Broadway production," Charnin told via email.

Troika Entertainment will present the upcoming non-Equity tour that will feature a completely different vision and physical production than the revival, Charnin told It will also feature selections from the original Tony-winning 1977 choreography by Peter Gennaro, which will be re-staged by his daughter Liza Gennaro.

Charnin, who directed the original 1977 Broadway staging and over a dozen productions of Annie since its 1976 pre-Broadway premiere at the Goodspeed Opera House (including a short-lived 1997 Broadway revival), stated that the new tour will also reflect a new physical production rather than the already-built set and costumes from the 2012 Broadway outing.

Audiences can expect a new set by Tony nominee Beowulf Boritt. Costume designer Suzy Benzinger has been enlisted to re-conceive the original elegant Tony-winning costumes by the late Theoni V. Aldridge, "with a keen eye on the past," according to Charnin. The design team also includes Tony-winning veteran lighting designer Ken Billington. Bill Berloni, who also provided the pooches for the original and revival stagings of Annie, will return for the tour.

"It will also, most importantly, approach the performances in a very truthful way, restoring the humour, strength, heart, and joy that are vital components of Annie, and that were in short supply, in the recent revival," Charnin said.

Casting is currently underway for the tour that will feature a 25-member company. A complete tour itinerary and official launch city have not been announced.

With some 17 productions of Annie under his belt, Charnin is looking forward to returning to the beloved crowd-pleaser. "The joy for me, in returning to it, is making the new and exciting discoveries you have to keep an eye out for as 25 new actors approach the musical. It breathes differently every time out, and I can't wait to meet this new gang of performers, young and old, as they enter Annie's world. It will beg for new and original staging, and that too is something I'm looking forward to."

The veteran also touched on the challenges of balancing what audiences have come to expect from a musical that has become a household name, while still exploring the production with an open and fresh perspective.

"While you have to adhere to that old saw, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it!,' it's a director's responsibility to pay close attention to what ideas a new group of actors bring to their roles," he said. "I'm certain that some of the new people we hire are going to have strong ideas about certain aspects of how to play a part, and how to create a character that differs from that which has gone before. I'm completely open to reinterpretations, if —and here's the big if — the new approach doesn't alter the original intention.

"There are a lot of ways to read any line of dialogue, but when you get right down to it, there's only one right way. Yes, that right way may in fact be a different way than what was, or the way a scene has been delivered before, but that fresh new approach has to live comfortably in the context of the whole event. You wouldn't re-orchestrate 'Tomorrow' and make it a disco song in the show. That's wildly out of context. It's just plain wrong! Similarly, you have to approach the book the same way. You can't re-orchestrate the libretto, either, and expect Annie to have the same kind of impact it's had for 38 years on audiences all over the world."