Martin Charnin: he wrote Annie, but he is for ever a Jet-black

The famous lyricist and chairman has had the opposite of a hard-knock life in theater, begin in West Side Story and writing one of the biggest musicals

Americas National Theatre in Washington is not so well known as its British equivalent, despite a long record President Abraham Lincoln watched his future executioner John Wilkes Booth play-act Richard III there and its proximity to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

But when Martin Charnin returns his evergreen prove Annie to the theatre on Tuesday night, the recalls will come roaring back. It was on this stage 59 years ago, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, that he appeared in the first performance of a musical unlike anything the world had ensure before: West Side Story.

In his early 20 s, Charnin learnt prowes at university and “havent had” schooling as an actor, dancer or singer. But a few weeks and a half after his graduation, he discerned an open call ad for the untried show in the New York Times and departed up against about 2,000 other hopefuls.

Director Jerome Robbins was looking for authentic juvenile delinquents and I envisaged I could be one of them, he recollected. It was startling. I had never done a musical before and to this day I have no idea why I got the role. I predict I was eccentric. I stimulated Arthur[ Laurents] laugh when I read some of the lines he gave me to do.

Inspired by Romeo and Juliet, the history of rival gangs, the Planes and the Sharks, on New Yorks Upper West Side was a unique alliance: book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Robbins. It had never been done, Charnin said. It had never been tried out. It was in Jerry, Stephen, Oscar and Lennys pates. Theyd gone into rehearsal in May minus one Jet and I was the Jet that they hired in June.

I learned at the paws of the masters. The excite was to be taught how to enunciate vowels and how to sing certain memoranda in a specific room by Bernstein. That was truly a treat.

Charnin took part in one of the testifies wittiest numerals, Gee Officer Krupke !, in which the Planes parody a police officer. I was the first person who ever said Krup you! on the American stagecoach. I was one of Stephen and Lennys most articulated vocalists. I was able to really intention my Ds and Ts in my words and that diction is most important, especially in a number like Krupke where youre proceeding a mile in a minute.

West Side Story would soon transpose to Broadway and be turned into a classic movie and is still performed on stages around the world. But back in hot and muggy Washington in 1957 , nothing of this was assured and few suspected a theatrical earthquake had begun.

Charnin, a New Yorker, remembered: Usually what happens in a musical out of municipality is a carol is shed out and a new one is written, but Jerry was working on dance moves and little detailed situations that he wanted to make sure worked. The gathering was a tad baffled because good-for-nothing like it has in the past came before. The story was being told through the dances and this was the first time it had ever happened.

I think the score is just astonishing to this day and everything else only sallows by comparison. Even occasions that Ive written. I precisely adored West Side, I adoration doing it. I did it for hundreds of thousands of achievements and then I began to write.

He started on a prolific profession as a lyricist and head in theatre and television and is good known for Annie in 1977. Set in the Great Depression, it was based on an anthology of the Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie he bought as a Christmas present from the now defunct Doubleday book store on New Yorks Fifth Avenue.

I guess when youre in the business of making musicals, you look for themes, you look for source substance anywhere, he observation. At that particular moment in time all of Dickens had been taken, it all had been musicalised. If Id met it in a bubblegum wrapping I predict Id have tried to get the rights to it. I read that volume before I gave it away and ultimately intention up not dedicating it away, I was so taken by Harold Grays original drawings.

Annie won the Tony award for best musical. Some 700 to 900 products of the appearance lead each year in the US alone, according to a New York Times is present in 2012, and it comes to Washington on 15 -2 0 March as part of a national tour. Charnin said it is especially favourite in Japan and he has enters of the carol Tomorrow in Japanese, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian and Greek.

His first production of Annie cost $ 800,000; this one is upwards of$ 4m. He has written eight new positions of lyrics. The enjoyable of it for me is that every time I do it, I learn something new about it, and in theory every production that predates the one Im doing obligates the one Im doing the recipient of the stuff that Ive learned. So it keeps thriving, it impedes changing.

But the most important thing from my standpoint is maintaining the beginning. One can say if it aint violated, dont fix it, and thats mostly what this yield is, even though it does indeed have a brand new specified, a lot of brand-new orchestration, a totally new company like any new yield Ive ever done, which is why I like doing them.

He experiences watching creations by academy and amateur groups because they tend to be true to his original vision. They read it, they dont reinterpret it. If it loses its middle, if it loses its feeling and it loses basically its narration, then I cant watch it.

The
The Sprays in West Side Story, Charnin third from right. Photo: Supp

Charnin was not so impressed by three movie versions obligated in 1982, 1999 and 2014, with performers including Albert Finney and Carol Burnett, Kathy Bates and Alan Cumming, and Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. The first one was OK. The second one stirred no gumption because they did some truly strange circumstances. The third one was a contemporisation they fetched it into the year 2014 in order to make it something that it really isnt.

We wrote a Depression musical and the whole idea was that those doldrums and questions very much in evidence before Franklin Roosevelt created the New Deal is what the subtext of the romp is all about. So when you take it out, youre cutting the fourth wheel off the wagon. It doesnt work.

Broadway , not Hollywood, appears to be Charnins natural dwelling. He is upbeat about the state of theatre, with one important territory. I think its in superb condition because when you stop and think that on the same street you can do Hamilton and two theaters away you can do Sweeney Todd and two theaters away from that you can do Annie and two theaters away you can do On Your Feet !, the Gloria Estefan musical. Its quite a smorgasbord and its always been like that. When that is happening be totally improved by it.

The one thing Im carping about, and I think everybody is, is the price of the tickets, which maintain clambering. The more impassable that the raising organisations make it, the more theyre going to make it impossible for the theater to really continue in the way that it should on Broadway. The theatre is thrive; the only trouble is that its costing a hell of a lot of fund more fund that it really should.

Charnin , now a grandfather past his 80 th birthday, is living in Westchester County, New York. This is the 19 th period he has led Annie, which might be some kind of enter. But asked if he has any plans to retire, he is adamant: Oh God no, I still have shows to write and direct. Or to put it another way 😛 TAGEND

When youre a Jet,
Youre a Jet all the route
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin day.

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