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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 21, 1977

It's time for another edition of the Tuesday Timeline, and this week, we're going to be looking at a topic that is very close to the theatre scene.

And admittedly, my knowledge of the theatre scene is quite limited.  I've only ever seen one production of "The Phantom of the Opera".  And that was in May of 1995. 

But, when you live four hours away from Toronto (the place where I saw Phantom of the Opera) and about nine hours from New York City (the place where Broadway comes to life almost every night), it makes it hard to enjoy the theatre scene.  And, high school productions of "As You Like It" and "Bye Bye Birdie" just don't have that same effect - although both of the plays that I watched in high school were acted quite well.

Anyway, today's Timeline is all about Broadway musicals.  But before we get started with that, we have some other events to look at first.  Shall we have a look at some of the things that happened on April 21?

753 BC - The date that Romulus founds the city of Rome

1509 - Henry VIII ascends the throne of England

1918 - "The Red Baron" is shot down and killed over Vaux-sur-Somme, France during World War I

1934 - "The Surgeon's Photograph" (which showed a photo of the legendary Loch Ness Monster) is published in "The Daily Mail" (the photo was declared a fake sixty-five years later, in 1999)

1952 - In the United States, Secretary's Day is first observed

1962 - The Seattle World's Fair - the first World's Fair to be held in the United States since World War II - opens

1970 - Elton John makes his solo debut as a performer when he opens for T.Rex at a gig in London

1982 - Rollie Fingers of the Milwaukee Brewers becomes the first pitcher to record 300 saves

1989 - Over a hundred thousand students gather in China's Tianamen Square to commemorate Chinese reform leader Hu Yaobang

2003 - EMI and Universal Music sue Napster for copyright violations

2012 - Two trains collide head on with each other in Amsterdam, injuring at least 116 people

And, well...that's it.  Apparently, April 21 was one of those days in which not a whole lot happened.

So, let's have a look at celebrity birthdays, shall we?

The following people are turning one whole year older today; Queen Elizabeth IIElaine May, Angela Mortimer, Charles Grodin, James Dobson, Iggy Pop, Patti LuPone, Tony Danza, Steve Vickers, James Morrison, Andie MacDowell, Robert Smith, Cathy Cavadini, Roy Dupuis, John Cameron Mitchell, Robin Meade, Toby Stephens, Nicole Sullivan, Eric Mabius, Jamie Sale, James McAvoy, Tony Romo, Brianne Davis, Terrence J, Shayna Fox, Robbie Amell, Christoph Sanders, and Princess Isabella of Denmark.

How cool that we start the celebrity birthday segment with a royal and end it off with a royal?  (Well, okay, I find it neat.)

And today's date for the Tuesday Timeline is also a neat one.

We're going back in time thirty-eight years in the past to April 21, 1977.

And for what it's worth, a lot happened on this date.  We said farewell to Gummo Marx, who died on this date.  We said hello to Canadian figure skater Jamie Sale, who was born on this date.  And Frank Sinatra and Friends first aired on ABC with special guests Natalie Cole and John Denver.

But it was also a big day in the world of Broadway, as it was on this date that a famous musical first debuted.  It was a musical that ran for nearly six years in its original run on Broadway, and won a total of seven Tony Awards during the show's first year.

And the Broadway show even spawned a hit movie!

No...not this version.  I don't even want to talk about the 2014 version of this movie, which in my opinion should have never been made.  And it's nothing to do with the actress who played Annie - I think that Quvenzhane Wallis did a fine job as Annie.  My issue was with the changes that this version made to the plot. 

No, I'm talking about the more superior 1982 version of "Annie", which starred Aileen Quinn.  That version was always one of my favourites.

And of course, the movie was based from the Broadway musical of the same name which debuted - you guessed it - thirty-eight years ago today!

Of course, anyone who has seen the show "Annie" probably can tell you where the idea originally came from.  Years ago, there was a comic strip called "Little Orphan Annie", created by Harold Gray.  Beginning in 1924, the comic strip detailed the life of a little curly haired girl named Annie who along with her dog Sandy struggle to make it in a world of cruelty and coldness - likely spawned by the fact that she was an orphan who lived in an orphanage run by a cruel woman who hated kids (the comic strip gave her the name of Miss Asthma, but in the Broadway play and movie, she is known as Miss Hannigan).  It wasn't until she crossed paths with the wealthy, but kind Daddy Warbucks that Annie begins to find her place in the world.

So, how did "Annie" go from a comic strip to a Broadway musical?

Well, the story actually begins in 1976.  The production was jointly produced by Charles Strouse (music), Martin Charnin (lyrics), and Thomas Meehan.  It held its unofficial debut in August 1976 at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut under the direction of Michael P. Price.  And originally, the actress who starred as the title role was Kristen Vigard.  Vigard lasted a few days in the role, but producers didn't quite feel as though she didn't quite fit the part.  See, Annie was supposed to be this gritty orphan who had a "Hard Knock Life", but Vigard proved to be a little bit too sweet.  She was kept on as understudy, but the main role then went to Andrea McArdle, who would eventually play the role for another year.  But don't feel too bad for Vigard - she landed a role on "Guiding Light" just a few years later.

TRIVIA:  Andrea McArdle would play another role in the musical as an adult.  She played the role of Miss Hannigan for a couple of performances of the play in 2010.

It wouldn't be until April 21, 1977 that the play made its official debut on Broadway.  It opened up at the Alvin Theatre in New York (which has since been renamed The Neil Simon Theatre), and featured the cast of McArdle, Reid Shelton as Daddy Warbucks, Dorothy Loudon as Miss Hannigan, and Sandy Faison as Grace Farrell.  The show closed in January 1983.  At the time, it was the longest running musical to feature at the Alvin Theatre/Neil Simon Theatre until 2009 when "Hairspray" broke the record.

Since then, the show has been periodically revived in several places around the world such as New York, London, and Sydney.

I guess it always goes to show you that no matter where you are, tomorrow is always a day away. 

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