Book by Thomas Meehan. Music by Charles Strouse. Lyrics by Martin Charnin.

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7:30 p.m. Monday – Thursday Evenings
8:00 p.m. Friday & Saturday Evenings
2:00 p.m. Saturday Matinees

Matinees have also been added for 2:00 p.m on December 21 & 23.


‘Annie’ and the Great Depression

by Dramaturg Greg Hatch

Harold Gray’s comic strip Little Orphan Annie was first published in newspapers on August 5, 1924. Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Annie’s benefactor, stepped into the frame later that same year. Endeavoring to increase the strip’s appeal to children, Gray added Sandy, Annie’s canine companion, to the cast in January 1925. While many more characters were woven in and out, these three remained the principal figures in Gray’s storylines.

Little Orphan Annie saw its popularity peak during the Great Depression, eventually appearing in 135 daily and 100 Sunday U.S. newspapers, and expanding to radio and films in the early 1930s. During the economic downturn, editors wanted comics to appeal to adult readers, too, ensuring a demand for daily newspapers. Accordingly, Gray’s weekday storylines began to engage a confident, mature Annie and her companions in wild, international adventures, culminating in an action-filled color Sunday strip that attracted grown-ups and to which young audiences could still relate.

Soon after the stock market crash in 1929, Gray began to incorporate real-world events into his stories. Similar to the lives of the comic’s readers, Gray’s characters fell on hard times, were forced to take any job that came their way, and made the best of difficult situations. This offered Gray the opportunity to espouse his own beliefs in hard work, private enterprise, business ethics, fiscal conservativeness, and individualism through Daddy Warbucks and a wise-beyond-her-years Annie. In fact, Gray did not hide his dislike for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, which began soon after his election in 1933.

Within days of taking office-and throughout the next decade-President Roosevelt, with the help of his Cabinet and his brain trust of non-elected advisors, implemented a series of domestic programs intended to stabilize the U.S. banking system, increase manufacturer and farm production, and establish federal assistance to citizens who were “ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished.” These were collectively known as the New Deal. Many of these programs are still in place today: Social Security, Federal Housing Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Short-term public service jobs for the unemployed were also created through New Deal legislation. The Tennessee Valley Authority served to build thirty dams, supplying jobs and water to seven states devastated by severe drought. The Works Progress Administration commissioned visual and performing artists and writers to work on public cultural projects, such as painting murals and writing plays.

Public response to Harold Gray’s politically tinged plots was mixed, but Little Orphan Annie’spopularity continued long after World War II. Following Gray’s death in 1968, the strip continued to be penned by other writers and artists. It experienced a resurgence with the Broadway premiere of Annie in 1977. In developing the musical, Thomas Meehan wrote a libretto that mellows the political rhetoric of the comic strip, adds a love interest for Daddy Warbucks (he was married in the strip), and emphasizes the sunny, optimistic outlook of its namesake character. Charles Strouse’s score and Martin Charnin’s lyrics echo this sanguine approach to enduring the overwhelming problems of the Great Depression.  The show won numerous accolades including Tony Awards for Best Book, Original Score, and Best Musical. The original production ran for 2,377 performances and was adapted into movies in 1982 and 1999.

The comic strip’s final newspaper installment was published on June 13, 2010.