It’s a rare thing to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame but to receive one along side a dear friend and colleague happens once in a life time. On Monday, April 11th Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein received their stars for their collaboration on the Tony Award winning Broadway show Kinky Boots right in front of the Hollywood Pantages.
On April 9th and 10th The Hollywood Pantages will have the pleasure of participating in the L.A. Times Festival of Books. The festival is held on the campus of USC on both Saturday and Sunday. Each year we try to bring our A game to our booth. This year we are happy be displaying some amazing Broadway costumes. Check out the photos below for a sneak peak of this weekend’s festivities.
For more information about The Festival of Books CLICK HERE
It takes a certain perseverance and resilience of spirit to create a musical about perseverance and resiliency. Just ask writer-director Martin Charnin who keeps framed rejection letters from the early to mid 1970s mounted on his walls. Those epistles were sent by dubious producers who advised Charnin and his co-creators to abandon the idea of bringing the saga of a certain cartoon orphan to the musical theater stage and move on to a different subject.
“I treasure them,” Charnin says of the letters. “It’s a good lesson. Sometimes people don’t like what you do.”
But sometimes they do. The original production of “Annie,” which lyricist and original director Charnin created with composer Charles Strouse and librettist Thomas Meehan, ran for 2,377 performances on Broadway. There have been two Broadway revivals and multiple touring companies. Between Broadway, road companies, regional and international productions, Charnin has now directed the musical 19 times.
One need not necessarily be a glass-half-full minded individual to identify with “Annie,” but that spirit is part of what keeps Charnin returning to the well. After a successful theatrical career that began in 1957, the Emmy and Tony award-winning Charnin certainly knows that “the sun’ll come out tomorrow,” but he figures that the world can often use a similar wake-up call.
“I really am reminded every time I do it what the show’s initial message was, and that’s how I basically get the optimism that is up on the stage for two hours,” Charnin says. “That’s something that I need. I think everybody needs a tap on shoulder to remind them that, as awful or as bleak or as difficult as it may be today, there might be something better around the corner.”
“That’s a valuable message to have in your wheelhouse,” he continues. “Certainly for the last 38 years that it’s been playing, that seems to be the message every time we enter a political year. The message becomes a little more pertinent.”
Asked whether the show ever served as a pick-me-up in the director’s own life, Charnin harks back to the original production…the one that produced those rejection letters. It took seven years and multiple passes to finally get “Annie” on stage first at the Goodspeed Opera House and then to Broadway. When “Annie” finally arrived in the late 1970s, it premiered when national spirits were not exactly at their highest.
“The country was in dismal shape when we started to work on it,” he says. “Nixon, Vietnam, a bad economy and everything started to turn around in 1976. In 1977, everything exploded in a positive way.”
Set as the musical is in the winter of 1933 against the effects of the Great Depression, “Annie” follows its 11-year-old heroine of comic strip fame as she moves through a series of hardships en route to a fairy tale ending in the home of Oliver Warbucks. Our Annie’s never-say-die spunkiness is intended to be a bellwether for dealing with the types of difficulties faced by post-Depression era America.
In the midst of her quest, Annie belts out a song that articulates her hopefulness… a certain song that has become more than a little bit famous as evidenced by the fact that it is now one of the 100 most frequently performed musical theater songs.
Perhaps you’ve heard the tune? A one-word title that rhymes with the words “you borrow”?
“We needed a moment early in the show that kinds of defines Annie musically,” Charnin recalls. “We find out a lot about her in ‘Maybe’ which opens the show and which tells us things in terms of plot. What we find out in ‘Tomorrow’ is her attitude.”
Over the ensuing years Charnin, has heard “Tomorrow” performed in multiple languages and in a variety of contexts.
“One of the funniest ways that I remember it was when they used it to accompany a commercial showing all of the playbacks from an NFL season,” Charnin says. “The day after the season ended, the players were all getting their gear together and leaving the stadiums. All of the quarterbacks are thinking about tomorrow and the next season.”
“I guess we always live in the present and we go to bed and wake up and it’s the future,” he says. We’re lucky to have locked that title up and made it work on so many levels.”
Any young lady who sings “Tomorrow” has to project not only hopefulness, but the grit that it will require to power through those tough times. Having worked with dozens of young girls – both portrayers of Annies and her fellow orphans – Charnin emphasizes that the character is “not Shirley Temple.”
“That’s a common misperception,” the director says. “She’s got to have a toughness and a sense of stick-to-it-iveness. And obviously she has to have a set of pipes. Annie’s a survivor. She confronts a lot of different things in the context of the script. Basically that’s what she was in the cartoon when we first read it, and that’s what attracted me to the character.”
Charnin cites the impressive history of stage Annies from original Broadway creator Andrea McArdle all the way through the current tour’s Issie Swickle. You want resiliency? How about starting your professional career while you’re still in elementary school and still be able to ply your trade three decades later, maybe even as the mother of an acting child yourself? “Annie” has its share of break-out stars from Allison Smith to Sarah Jessica Parker to a young Welsh actress from the London company, Catherine Zeta Jones.
“I get a big charge from working with the kids,” says Charnin. “We have had quite a lot of luck finding young ladies who were 10 or 11 who have gone on to have terrific careers.”
With the “Annie” tour successfully launched, Charnin is hard at work on other projects including a musical about the life of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish humanitarian credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust. Charnin is also working on a revival of the “Annie” sequel “Annie Warbucks” potentially for a New York opening during the 2016-17 season. Ideally, Charnin says, “Annie” and “Annie Warbucks” would play in repertory at the same theater so that you can see the shows on alternating nights or – “Nicholas Nickleby” style – as a same day two show weekend marathon.
Of course, wherever his creative journeys take him, Charnin always figures to have the opportunity to return to a production of “Annie” somewhere, sometime. As the last nearly 40 years have established, the appetite for this tale has by no means abated.
With this new incarnation, Charnin hopes that people who saw the musical as a child might revisit it and take home new memories. For audiences who are returning to the musical many years later, perceptions should be based on what is on stage rather than on memories that have been distorted by the passage of time or other versions of the story, Charnin says.
“Part of what this show is about is a reminder to look at it again, and then make your judgment,” Charnin says. “The hope is people take to it in the same way they did and have been for almost four decades.”
Bet your bottom dollar!
We all have that one show that sticks with us our entire lives. Maybe it was your first show, perhaps is was a show that really struck the mood you were in at just the right time, and sometimes it’s the show that left you with some new go to shower songs. For the Nederlander Organization, that owns the Hollywood Pantages Theatre; that show is ANNIE.
We had the distinct pleasure to sit down with the President of the Nederlander Organization, James L. Nederlander, to discuss the phenomenon that was and still is ANNIE. We asked Jimmy what he remembered about the show’s debut on April 21, 1977:
“I remember that the name of the theatre (The Alvin) and ANNIE had the same number of letters so we changed the marquee to say ANNIE for the show instead of displaying the theatre’s name. This show was something else. I went through several copies of the record because I kept wearing them out. It was a great family show and a great date night show. It warmed the cockles of all hearts, of all ages. Everyone left with a smile. It was a great first musical for many children and people just kept coming back to see it. After nearly 40 years people are still coming back to see this show.”
The original cast included Andrea McArdle (Annie), Reid Shelton (Daddy Warbucks), and Dorothy Loudon (Miss Hannigan). ANNIE Was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and walked away with 7 including Best Musical and Best Score. Annie’s doors stayed open until 1983 and held the title for longest running show at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) until Hairspray in 2009.
With over 10 different tours and revivals, several movie and television adaptations, and more pop culture references than one can count, ANNIE continues to inspire new generations of children to this day.
Get your tickets by visiting www.hollywoodpantages.com/annie
There are a few things The Hollywood Pantages is known for. The beautiful Art Deco architecture, the glowing chandeliers, our dazzling marquee, and of course our wonderful shows. There is one other thing about us that is simply unique. Beyond the chandelier and the scrolling ceiling facade is the beautiful sprawling blue ceiling. Check out the photos below as we venture into “Howard’s Hideaway” to see the blue ceiling up close.
Many photos have been taken over the years of the beautiful Grand Chandelier that illuminates The 2,703 seats beneath it every performance. There is another view that most people don’t get to see and that is the view from inside the Grand Chandelier. Check out the video and photos below as our own Master Electrician, Howard Nugent takes a walk around the inside of the Grand Chandelier.
Welcome to The 2703, the brand new Hollywood Pantages Blog. One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, “How many seats are in the theatre?” The answer to that question and the name of our blog is 2,703. It’s that kind of insider knowledge we want to share with you! Have you ever wondered what happens at the Hollywood Pantages while you’re not here? We want to peak your curiosity, take you behind the scenes, into rehearsal rooms, and out into Hollywood. We want to give back to our audiences that fill The 2703 every performance.