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Leave 'Annie' Alone

November 26, 2000

Revising classic musicals, most notably "Annie Get Your Gun," to modernize or make them politically correct is indeed a perversion ("When Shows Refuse to Repeat History," by Michael Phillips, Nov. 19). I see it as no different or more justifiable than revising works of Shakespeare because of disapproval (even if justified) of his viewpoints.

However, for those who wish to hear the complete and original version, there are plenty of both contemporaneous recordings of "Annie" and recent revival casts. And, to see the show performed as it should be, there's the incomparable 1954 TV version with John Raitt and (for my money) the greatest American musical theater performer, Mary Martin.


Thousand Oaks


For years we've heard grumbles about "botched" movie versions of stage shows. Many of the changes that occurred between Broadway and Hollywood were necessitated by the rigid Production Code. (The often-risque lyrics of Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart were particularly prone to censorship.)

Such bowdlerization occurred to avoid offending the presumably less sophisticated movie audiences. Nowadays, stage musicals are similarly edited for racial content. One might ask: If the source material contains potentially offensive elements, why use it at all? Why not leave alone "Annie Get Your Gun" (1946) and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (1967) as products of their time and not try to "improve" them by politically correcting them?

The answer, of course, is: It's easier to pre-sell a familiar title and much easier to fiddle with someone else's work than to come up with anything original. What's more difficult to answer is: How can stage producers still claim creative high ground over Hollywood?



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