My oldest daughter is performing in a local production of Annie. (She plays the orphan Tessie who keeps saying Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!) My younger sister is also in the same show. Although I love watching my daughter perform, and I think she does a very good job, there is just something about that story that just gets under my nerves a bit. It seems fabricated just to pull at your certain emotions (feelings of nostalgia, even though the 1930’s aren’t nostalgic for most people now.) and the cuteness factor. Aw, isn’t that a cute little girl. Aw, isn’t that a cute little dog, etc. Musicals tend toward the upbeat, but there is only so much I can bear. (The one major subplot that is supposed to build some dramatic tension, the kidnapping and fraudulently claiming the reward money just seems tacked on)
Compare Annie with other musicals. Kids escaping their country before Germany invades while meanwhile finally reconnecting with their distant father and their new stepmother. That’s a story. A love affair blowing up gang warfare in New York. A man imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition goes insane hallucinates that he is a knight on a quest. Those are stories.
So while watching the show many times over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come up with a story that tells another side of the Annie story. In the same way that Wicked, The Wind Done Gone, Grendyl , or The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. I started thinking that the Oliver Warbucks character. I started thinking about how I would feel about a businessman today who was powerful enough to call up the FBI and request they perform illegal searches on private citizens. I started thinking about how I would feel about a businessman today who could schedule an meeting with a US President of Vice President and request changes to economic policy in order to benefit his factories. Especially if built the fortune himself and didn’t inherit it, he really seems like someone I wouldn’t want to cross.
So then I started wondering why a guy like that would do the “take in an orphan for Christmas” thing. What I started imaging was a man who didn’t have to worry about his public perception and could keep himself out of the general news media. Maybe eventually he started to be noticed by the general public because of his power and suddenly needed some positive press? Then I wonder if Annie herself can be just as conniving for her age, but is young enough to put one a happy face and a tap dance and distract people from Warbucks’ ruthlessness.
After a while, the story that I’m imagining is a lot more interesting to me than the one I keep seeing performed. A co-worker of mine asked “Do you mean that seeing Annie this many times has ruined it for you?” and I told him that I think at least for me adding my backstory actually improves it.
Then I start thinking of my story, instead of seeing my story as another play, I can picture it as a Frank Miller-style graphic novel. But then Oliver Warbucks starts looking an awful lot like the Kingpin. If the kingpin every starts getting involved with a girl dressed in red, that would be a bit too weird.