HillSide Story: Maybe (Super) Far Away

Welcome back to our column. It is with true sadness that we must report that these columns must now be written remotely as we now sit on couches about 1,000 miles apart from one another. But, as they say, the show must go on. At this point, the Olivier Awards have been canceled, and we cannot bear the thought of losing the Tony Awards as well (they have already been postponed). So, in these hard times, we have chosen a movie to brighten our spirits to remind us that the sun will come out tomorrow. Feel free to join us by streaming the film on your own couch as you remain six feet from everyone else in the world as we watch “Annie” (1999). Just so everyone is aware, we were told there is no more word count, but we cannot go “wild.” No promises. We have many thoughts about many things. Anyway, there have been three versions of “Annie” in the last 38 years, so if you do not know the story that seems like it might be on you.

Anna Hirshman (AH): I would like to say that it is okay if this is not your favorite version. We chose this movie because the idea of it made us nostalgic and happy. I apparently failed to remember that a significant chunk of this movie is quite frustrating and upsetting. “Hard Knock Life” does feel particularly applicable right now, it’s almost too real. 

Allie Morgenstern (AM): I truly, truly hope that orphanages are better off now. This movie genuinely makes me want to adopt when I’m older. Miss Hannigan is not properly trained to handle children. Eliza Schuyler would be disappointed in the care of these children. Also, how come it’s only one person running the whole orphanage? Can I work at an orphanage? I want to make sure these children are okay! I want to hug them all! Except I can’t … because of social distancing.

AH: We must talk about the cast. It is full of musical theatre royalty: Victor Garber, Alan Cumming, Kristen Chenoweth and the Audra McDonald.

AM: Audra McDonald. Oh my gosh. Her voice literally is pure gold.

AH: And these children are remarkable. Who knew Sarah Hyland and Lalaine could make me feel so many things?

AM: Can we acknowledge the fact that Sarah Hyland looks exactly the same now as she does then? Those eyes! Also, Annie’s singing voice is just so pure and wonderful and always makes me feel like I’m a kid again.

AH: But I can no longer watch this movie with a child’s lens. It has some crazy lines. Miss Hannigan (played by Kathy Bates) talks about how she would get away with wringing the necks of little girls and asks for someone to send floods or the flu. And Rooster (played by Cumming) proposes that they kill Annie once they scam Warbucks by pretending to be her parents. Overall, though, some quality songwriting.

AM: Ugh, “Tomorrow” just gets me every single time. It’s so optimistic and beautiful. I just knew I was going to cry when Audra sings it later on in the film. I’ve been silently singing this song in my head for the past few days. Gotta stay positive somehow.

AH: I want to curl up in a ball and listen to Audra McDonald sing “Tomorrow.” And I want to go shopping at Bergdorf’s with her. Sounds like my ideal afternoon. Then she convinces Mr. Warbucks to take Annie and her to a Broadway show. They proceed to explore all the most exciting parts of NYC. What a day! 

AM: Another iconic trio: Kathy Bates, Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth. Such talent.

AH: You are so right. What an entrance by Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth. Their relationship is ridiculous and entertaining. Then when they, along with Kathy Bates, sing “Easy Street,” it is hard as a viewer not to smile and sway along. They are the definition of loveable jerks.

AM: And the “Mudges” are so suspicious. How is it that no one can see through their costumes?

AH: This is when it gets real. Grace (Warbucks’s assistant played by McDonald) is a very smart lady, but she fails to recognize Miss Hannigan when she has sunglasses and a hat on. That’s embarrassing for her. And the locket so clearly does not fit. This movie is more proof of how dumb adults can be. But I guess Annie doesn’t recognize her either. So everyone has pretty bad facial recognition I guess. The little orphans really pull through for Annie.

AM: I love how the orphan children defeat Lily St. Regis (played by Chenoweth). They’re so devious and I love it. Such a happy ending. I cannot handle it.

AH: We love a happy family. Also, we need more human contact, so please email us with any of your own movie musical thoughts and/or recommendations.


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