by Nikki S.
The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Annie (1982). I was little and don’t remember much about the experience itself, but it was at the Esquire Theater, a movie house that had been in my hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, for decades. As a matter of fact, my uncle worked there as a teenager in the late 1950s/early 1960s. It had a bright marquee hanging over the sidewalk, complete with plenty of neon. The ticket taker was in a little booth in the center of the entrance, and the snack counter was to the right as you walked in. It was a magical place to me. Sometime in the mid-to-late 80s, the Esquire shut down. Over the years, it slowly became more and more dilapidated, to the point that it almost hurt to pass by the building. Well, sometime late last year, a developer bought the place and is now gutting and restoring it over the next few years. I really hope he comes through–there have been people interested in reviving the Esquire in the past, but nothing really happened.
Concerning the movie itself, Annie is still one of my favorites. Once we finally got a VCR, my uncle gave me a copy of Annie, and so I probably saw it a few hundred times in the 80s alone! Annie really planted the seed for what later became a passionate love of musicals. I adored so many things about the movie–the songs, the characters, the fact that it was about kids (and girls, at that). The actors became some of my all-time favorites–Bernadette Peters, Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry … what’s not love about this cast?! I already loved Carol Burnett from her television variety show, so it was fun to hate her as this film’s evil Miss Hannigan.
Another thing that really drew me to the movie was that it was about a girl who didn’t know her birth parents and didn’t understand why she was in the situation she was in. I was given up for adoption at birth and was placed with my parents soon thereafter. Though I didn’t have the language or understanding to process it at the time, I knew what it meant to wonder about your birth mother and to be glad that I didn’t have to live in an awful orphanage! Though the specifics were different, the essence was the same. In a way, I guess Annie was me.
I have no memory of the experience, but my mom has told me that when I was younger, a friend’s young, curly red-haired British relative came for a visit, and I was so convinced that she was Annie that I absolutely refused to believe that she wasn’t!
I saw other movie musicals as a kid, but none that I liked as much as Annie. As I got older, I really came to appreciate the cast of this film even more. It’s overflowing with movie and theatre veterans, some who have become virtual living legends over the years. While I had seen Bernadette Peters on The Carol Burnett Show and The Muppet Show, it was here (as Lily St. Regis, “named after the hotel”) that I started to appreciate her. Later, in high school, I saw a recording of Into the Woods, a fantastic musical by Stephen Sondheim (my first real exposure to his work) that stars Bernadette as the Witch. She was amazing. I sought out more of her cast albums, then saw a recording of the brilliant Sunday in the Park with George (also a Sondheim musical). As an adult, I’ve seen her in concert four times, MET her, and was able to see her and the brilliant cast of Follies (another Sondheim musical) at the Kennedy Center before it went to New York last year. To make a long story short (which is VERY difficult because I could talk about it forever), I love theatre!
I’ve never had the chance to perform in Annie onstage, but I sure performed it in my bedroom as a kid! I did perform Miss Hannigan’s song “Little Girls” for a musical theatre class in college, though. Several years after college, I designed some scenic elements (Times Square-esque marquees which advertised products from the era) for the local middle school’s production of Annie.
Nikki, 33, is an actor on hiatus who works in an office because a girl’s gotta eat! With an interest sparked by musicals like Annie and a movie habit fed by her uncle and a VHS player, she has a Bachelor’s degree in theatre and worked as an actor until life forced a break. In the meantime, she is a lover of classic, independent, art-house, foreign, and even mainstream films, and a frequent patron of Denver-area theatres and concert venues. Support the arts!