YEM Ranks Popular Annie Productions From Best to Worst

The famous Annie productions have varied from broadway to films, and even made song-debuts on TV series such as Glee. YEM is here to look back on these various adaptations and rank which ones are the best and share important takeaways from each.

Annie is a worldwide phenomenon based on the popular comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, by Harold Gray. The musical follows an orphan, Annie, who believes her parents accidentally left her in a facility run by the truly mean Miss Hannigan. So, when a rich man named Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks decides to select Annie to live at his home to promote his image, the story really begins. Annie starts getting accustomed to living in Warbucks’ mansion but still longs to meet her parents. So, Warbucks announces a search for them and a reward, which brings out many frauds.

While this is the overall summary of all of the adaptations, there are many things to look at that did and did not work throughout the multiple productions. Let’s take a look at the best Annie adaptation first.

Without question, or surprise, Annie, the Broadway Musical is the best version of Annie and her storyline. The production opened April 21, 1977 and continued for nearly six years and 2,3777 performances. It also won multiple Tony Awards with Best Musical, Score, and book. On top of that, Andrea McArdle, Annie, received a Tony nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Musical and was beaten by her co-star Dorothy Loudon, who played Miss Hannigan. There’s a reason theaters around the country are still staging this. 

One huge pro of the Broadway production is obviously the music. 

Classic songs include:

  • “It’s the Hard Knock Life”
  • “Tomorrow” 
  • “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” 
  • “Annie”
  • “I Don’t Need Anything But You“

These songs were performed flawlessly, and there was an adorable scrappy dog and a Christmas finale. What more could we want? 

The story is set during the Great Depression, but Annie is the type of girl that takes care of herself and is optimistic about her future even though she has no home or parents. The message is timeless, making Annie nearly impossible to hate. 

The first film created in 1982 is the next best on our list. It’s important to point out that the 1982 and the 1999 films structurally and story-wise are similar. However, there are a few pieces of each that make the 1982 film stand out a little more. The casting is genius for starters. The iconic Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan (if you’re not familiar with Burnett; get familiar). Besides the casting, another huge perk to this adaptation is the character known as Punjab who didn’t appear in the Broadway musical or 1999 film. He is Annie’s helper and bodyguard and the relationship between the two adds a hilarious element to the film, but that’s not all that bears mentioning with Punjab’s character. There are multiple mystical foreigner tropes that are hard to ignore in this film. However, Punjab saves Annie at a very critical moment in the film, and it’s a very striking moment to see an Indian man with a turban be a hero on-screen. Especially for the time. 

As mentioned before, “The Wonderful World of Disney’s” 1999 TV movie adaptation of Annie is structured similarly to the 1982 film. This film also has amazing, Tony nominee and winning actors like Kathy Bates, Alan Cumming, and Victor Garber. Punjab is not in this adaptation, however, and there is a super random plan where Miss Hannigan poses as Annie’s mother to get the reward “Daddy” put in place to find Annie’s parents. Annie lived with Miss Hannigan lording over her her whole life and a wig and costume wouldn’t fool Annie. This film is still very fun and brought back the songs “N.Y.C.” and “Something Was Missing.” 

Now while there’s still one more film to discuss, let’s first discuss the many different ways Annie has appeared in other adaptations besides film, like school plays/theater performances, songs sung on different TV shows, live performances on air, etc. One that stands out is the different songs performed on the famous TV show Glee. Of course, Sarah Jessica Parker goes back to her Annie roots to perform a mashup on her Glee debut of songs “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and “The Way You Look Tonight.” Parker played Annie herself on Broadway in 1979! She wasn’t the only person who performed classic hits from Annie on the show either. Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison performed “NYC.” 

Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison performance:

Lastly, we have to discuss the most recent Annie film. Of course, while the film adaptations are all similar, they also all take different spins and interpretations of roles and scenes. However, the 2014 Annie adaptation changes pretty much everything, seemingly trying to fit into today’s world more! From story-line to a complete new music genre, this film really didn’t portray the original beloved Annie. Which is why the performances from Glee are ahead of this film. While the film did a great job at including diverse actors and a Black cast, it doesn’t portray the same charm as the other adaptations. The 2014 movie portrays Annie as a foster child instead of an orphan, which is a good representation for kids in foster care, however it more or less changes the plot. On top of that, the use of social media and technologies in the film is distracting and takes away that 1920’s vibe. And of course, the change to pop and auto-tuning of the original songs definitely takes away from the classical sound. Plus with a cast like Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx, who aren’t trained singers, it adds to this change. It’s still an overall good movie, if you don’t mind that it’s quite a bit different from the well-known and beloved Annie musical. 

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