it's well paced for a young audience, and would be an excellent introduction to get children interested in live theater
Disney's 1999 TV production of the classic 1977 musical Annie
is remarkable for its casting of stage actors rather than ratings trump cards. Tony winners Audra McDonald (Grace), Alan Cumming (Rooster), and Kristin Chenoweth (Lily) join four-time nominee Victor Garber (Daddy Warbucks) and Les Misérables
veteran Alicia Morton (Annie) to tell the tale of the Depression-era orphan who gets a taste of the upper-crust life. Not surprisingly, they all turn in strong performances, and even Oscar-winner Kathy Bates acquits herself well in a singer's role, as the villainous Miss Hannigan. Perhaps best of all is the original title moppet, Andrea McArdle, making a sensational one-minute cameo as the Broadway Star-To-Be in "N.Y.C."
Compared to John Huston's plodding, overly busy 1982 theatrical release, this production as directed by Rob Marshall (Cabaret, among other shows) is quite conservative; few numbers leave the confines of their sets, giving it the feel of a stage production. It is also more faithful as a whole to the Broadway original, though at a running time of 90 minutes it leaves out most of the historical context of the FDR administration as well as some of Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin's familiar songs, and makes a few plot changes, some of which work and some of which don't. Because of the omissions, this probably isn't a definitive film translation of Annie, but it's well paced for a young audience, and would be an excellent introduction to get children interested in live theater. Annie was produced by the team behind the 1993 telecast of Gypsy with Bette Midler, as well as 1997's Brandy-Whitney Houston Cinderella, and there are plans for many others. As Broadway shows are too often represented on video by inferior big-screen translations, this trend toward good, solid small-screen productions is most welcome. --David Horiuchi