November 9, 2012

The new revival of 1977′s toothache-inducing Broadway classic Annie premiered last night at the Palace Theater. Reviews have been just on the happy side of lukewarm, with most of the praise going towards the undeniably adorable dog that was profiled last week in Business Insider, beneath the barely-comprehensible headline, “Annie’s Sandy Hopes Sun’ll Come Out Day After Tomorrow.”

But no matter how much love is heaped on the red-headed twerp, her shrill squeal, bubbly optimism and unforgivable curls have always made us want to belt her. Now now, I’m not threatening to make my way up to 47th Street and start slugging. I’m not getting paid enough to go to Times Square, and with my freelancer’s build—a unique combination of flabby and scrawny—it’s really not a good idea to pick fights, even with tweens. But boy, something about those bouncing red locks makes me want to hurt somebody, and she’s not the only one. Here are five other musical legends who fill me with an overwhelming urge to bust their lip.

1. Oliver Twist, Oliver! Last seen on Broadway in a short-lived 1984 reunion, the little boy who just wants some more is just like Annie, but somehow worse. Perhaps it’s the perversion of a classic text, perhaps it’s my distaste for romantic depictions of poverty, or perhaps it’s a deep-seated belief that orphan boys should know enough to shut up and eat their damn gruel. He may have been a pickpocket, but the kids from Newsies could slap him silly.

2. Mark Cohen, Rent. Just three years after its near-eternal Broadway run ended, Rent was revived off Broadway at New World Stages—as a shrunk down, economized, zombiefied replica of the original production designed to milk the brand dry. Impressed by that cynicism, I pitched my editor a story about the revival, not considering that it’s a bad idea to write about a show you hate. For three weeks, I was forced to take Rent seriously—a theater journalist’s hell—and most of my repressed rage was focused on Mark, the show’s narrator, a wannabe filmmaker slumming among the angels of the East Village. I’d like to smash his camera over his oh-so-sensitive head.

3. Jesus, Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Okay, talk about someone I shouldn’t pick a fight with. It took me a long time to wrap my head around the fact that there are two hippiefied Broadway depictions of the Messiah, and I’m still not clear on why we need both shows—or either of them. They opened within weeks of each other in 1971—Godspell off Broadway, Superstar on—and were among the biggest sensations of the 1970′s. Revivals of each opened in the last year, and both were casualties of the summertime closing season. Three days after they closed, thankfully, they stayed that way.

4. Everyone in Hair. It’s been a long time since I saw Hair, and I hate it as much as I ever did. If it weren’t so popular, it would be easy to dismiss as a relic of its time, a bit of soft-headed anti-war moralism along the lines of the unfortunately forgotten Hail Hero! But Hair remains as marketable as ever, as evidenced by a recent hit revival, and the film Across The Universe, which ripped it off wholesale on its way to becoming one of the most irritating films of the millennium. (If Julie Taymor were a fictional character, by the way, she would top this list.) People still love this claptrap—which suggests that Broadway audiences are just as dumb as they’ve always been.

5. Sally Bowles, Cabaret. I love Sally, I really do. But she’s one of those characters I would loathe if we met in real life. The classic poor little rich girl, she’s slumming in Berlin, playing at being shocking, all in hopes of getting back at Daddy. Thankfully, no one around her takes her seriously, and neither does the play. But if I met Sally in one of the Weimar’s dark alleys, I’d have a hard time not popping her in that wonderfully peculiar face.

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