Broadway off for ‘Annie Warbucks’

For “Annie Warbucks,” tomorrow just became a lot more than a day away.

Producer Karen Walter Goodwin, still more than $ 1 million short of the show’s $ 5.5 million capitalization, yesterday threw in the towel for a Broadway opening this season. The show was slated to begin performances April 6 at the Neil Simon Theater.

Goodwin said she and her investors still hope to bring the show to Broadway in late summer or fall. But yesterday’s cancellation marked the third postponement in as many months.

“It hurts, it baffles me, to be perfectly honest,” said Martin Charnin, “Annie Warbucks’ ” director and lyricist. It has been more than four years since Charnin reunited with composer Charles Strouse and book writer Thomas Meehan in an attempt to rediscover the gold they struck with “Annie” in 1977.

Originally called “Annie II: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge,” the sequel had a disastrous tryout in Washington in December 1989. The creative team undertook an extensive rewrite and recruited Goodwin.

Goodwin arranged for the show to be presented by the National Alliance of Musical Theater Producers. The show opened a year ago in Chicago and had extended runs. It toured Texas and the West Coast, including L.A., San Diego and Pasadena. Business was uneven, but reviews were consistently upbeat and by all accounts the show continued to improve.

A Broadway opening was announced for December 1992. That was postponed to March and then to April, as Goodwin tried to complete the producing partnership.

But “Annie Warbucks” had two significant factors working against it: While Hollywood loves sequels, Broadway abhors them. There has never been a successful one.

Aura of failure

And the D.C. flop conferred an aura of failure on the show that has proved overwhelming.

Investors lined up and dropped out, and new investors came in. Goodwin approached virtually every producer and angel in the business, and while they were consistently impressed, they lacked faith that the show would overcome the stigmas attached to it.

“If God is good, the sun will shine on the ‘Annie Warbucks’ billboard,” Charnin said. “We’re gonna happen, we’re gonna happen, we’re gonna happen.” On the other hand, he added, “I’ve just gone out and bought a very large bottle of 100-proof Stolichnaya.”

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