The W Think Tank Pitch Page
Greetings Theatre Cats!-
Ed & Karen here!
Herein is the page upon which we shall let our ideas and content flow for the THE W members.
Coming up-articles about theatre, the Wichita Theatre, your shows and upcoming attractions, membership perks and many other features.
Welcome to The W!
Hello everybody, come on inside. We’ve been saving a front row seat just for you! And that’s really what The W is all about. A front row seat for all kinds of sights and sounds reserved for members like you. We will be giving you special glimpses of upcoming productions, inside info on life backstage, special offers, and opportunities that well, frankly, we can’t talk about just yet!
Remember; keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times and your tray in it’s full upright, and locked position because it’s going to be a wild ride. Welcome aboard and let’s have some fun.
Ed & Karen Underwood
The W Team
Little Orphan Annie has been a part of American pop culture for nearly a century now—first as a comic strip which made its debut in the summer of 1924, then as a popular radio show in the 1930s, which spun off into a couple of film productions later in that decade and a hit Broadway musical in 1977. The 1982 version—starring Aileen Quinn as the titular orphan—is the best known big-screen version. Here are some things you might not have known about Annie.
The Creators of the Musical hated the Movie version!
Martin Charnin, conceiver, director, and lyricist of the Broadway hit, had nothing good to say about what producer Ray Stark and director John Huston did to his play. When he sold the rights, he relinquished all creative control. The result, Charnin said: “Warbucks, played by Albert Finney, 'was an Englishman who screamed.' Hannigan, played by Carol Burnett, was 'a man-crazy drunk.' And Annie was 'cute-ed up.' Worse, the emotional relationship between Annie and Warbucks was distorted. They even downplayed the hit song "Tomorrow'' because 'Stark thought it was corny.
NEW JERSEY'S GOVERNOR SIGNED A LAW TO ALLOW CHILDREN IN THE CAST TO WORK AT NIGHT.
The climactic scene was partly shot on the Passaic River’s NX Railroad Drawbridge which had been abandoned in the raised position in 1977. The scene called for Annie to climb the bridge like a ladder with Rooster following in a murderous rage. All of this took place in the dead of night, and New Jersey's child labor laws prohibited children employed in making films from working after 11:30 p.m. and before 7 a.m. More night hours would be needed to complete the shoot, and the state government was accommodating, with Governor Brendan Byrne helicoptering to the set to sign an amendment to the law which now allows the Commissioner of Education “the authority to amend the hours of the day during which a minor may work but not the total hours.”
THE "ORIGINAL" ANNIE MOVIE WAS NOT THE FIRST BIG-SCREEN INCARNATION OF THE LITTLE ORPHAN.
Before it was a movie Little Orphan Annie was a much celebrated radio show. But that wasn’t the beginning of America’s relationship with the sassy Little Orphan Annie. The original Annie as we know her appeared in a comic strip started in 1924 by Harold Gray. It was going to be “Little Orphan Otto,” but a friend convinced Gray to change it based on James Whitcomb Riley’s even older 1885 poem “Little Orphant Annie” which in turn was based on a real orphan child living with the Riley family, Mary Alice Smith.
The comic strip ran for decades and limped along for about 40 more years after Gray’s death. Annie of the comics was Nancy Drew crossed with Dick Tracy; she spent a lot of her time fighting Nazis and uncovering communist plots. And those round, empty eye sockets? Those were on purpose according to Gray, who once said “The blank eyeballs served to enhance reader involvement with the strip: not seeing what is going on in the eyes of the characters, readers could impose their own fears and concerns into the narrative.”
In the 1930s, two Annie adventure movies were made. The Broadway play released in 1977 was the most successful incarnation of Annie since her days of being shot at by gangsters.
ANNIE WAS A FIGURE OF FEMALE EMPOWERMENT.
In stark contrast to the portrayal of women in popular culture of the time, Annie was no damsel in distress. Though she found a guardian in rich industrialist Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, her tendency to get caught up in criminal schemes or political intrigue meant she was often in physical danger. But Annie was resourceful and wily, and usually able to extricate herself from those situations without needing to be rescued. Annie, wrote historian Elizabeth Maurer, was “neither ladylike nor cute ... she was the antithesis of Shirley Temple ... While she frequently ends up in dicey situations, she usually saves herself.”
1) What is the musical “Annie” based on?
2) What song does Annie sing when she is hoping her parents will come back for her?
3) What last name was Annie born with?
4) Rooster, Miss Hannigan’s brother, comes to visit her to ask for ______?
5) What is the name of another orphan that Annie lives with?
1) Comic Strip “Little Orphan Annie”
5) Molly, Pepper, Kate, Duffy, Tessie and July
Annie was such a huge cultural phenomenon that magician Doug Henning created a special illusion featuring the most famous Broadway Annie of all time.
Meet Your W Hosts, Ed & Karen Underwood
Back in the year of our Lord 1993, Ed and Karen Underwood moved to Wichita Falls along with their children, Heather and Kevin, and a dog named Snickers. They came to town to work in a ministry and eventually Ed became a newscaster and on-air personality for KMOC, the Falls’ original local Christian radio station.
During his time at KMOC, Ed hosted concerts and other events in the community, including some that took place at The Wichita Theatre. Ed and Karen had previously worked as entertainers, writers, musicians, and producers and they were completely charmed by the history and beauty of the theatre.
At one point Ed and Karen suggested a Christian film festival be presented as a joint effort between the radio station and the theatre. It was over the days of the film festival that a relationship began to grow between them and the Jackson family. Dwayne soon asked Ed to serve as host for a series of classic movie nights. It was becoming clear that the Underwoods had a genuine passion for the theatre and shared a vision for the role it could play in the city.
In 2001, Dwayne and Lisa asked Ed to join the staff of the Wichita Theatre, to help with website development, marketing strategies and promotion. Soon the theatre began to book high profile headliners like Three Dog Night, Little Feat, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Randy Travis, George Winston and top variety acts including Las Vegas magic legend Jeff McBride and the Fred Garbo Inflatable Theatre Company and many, many other stars. It was an exciting time for entertainment in the Falls!
The next frontier was to create and offer a community theatre experience on a larger scale than had been done before. In 2003, Ed produced a live version of Peter Pan utilizing an original script adaptation by Joseph McNeely, and original music and songs written by Karen. The show was a runaway success and set a new course for the theatre’s yet to unfold future.
Ed & Karen eventually left Wichita Falls for a run of time as entertainers and producers in Branson, Missouri. Karen presented a music show entitled the World’s Greatest Love Songs, they both appeared in multiple seasons of a comedy show, and Ed presented magic fifty stories underground inside Marvel Cave at Silver Dollar City.
Fun Fact: During the run of the comedy show, Ed took over 150 pies to the face. He now says all that cream is the secret to great skin care!
In 2017, Dwayne and Lisa asked them to create an original stage musical documenting the history of Wichita Falls and the surrounding area. North Texas Rising debuted to enthusiastic audiences and critical praise.
Currently the Underwoods are launching a new touring arts show called “The Sonic Cinema Experience” and have written two new plays that may someday grace the dinner stage at the Wichita Theatre. And now they are excited to be your hosts for The W. Expect the unexpected as new articles, stories and behind the scenes treats are rolled out just for our members!