In the musical ANNIE, the song “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” may describe the neglect the orphans suffer, but in the PBS documentary ANNIE: It’s the Hard-Knock Life, From Script to Stage, the phrase takes on another meaning, defining the hard work that goes into putting on a Broadway production.
The film is one of three components to the ANNIE on Broadway Education Initiative, an arts education program with an interactive approach to teaching New York City students and children everywhere about the performing arts. The initiative was created as part of a collaboration between WNET and Arielle Tepper Madover Productions, the producers of ANNIE. With the support of the New York City Department of Education’s Office of the Arts, the non-profit Collaborative Arts Project 21 (CAP21) and funding from the New York City Council, the program provided in-school theater workshops for over 350 students in 10 public schools across the city. The program culminated with students taking a trip to the Palace Theater to see ANNIE in May–for some, this was their first time seeing a Broadway play.
In addition to these workshops, the program launched a robust website, to enable kids across the country to explore the world of ANNIE and get an up-close look behind the scenes of the musical. The site features a variety of free online games, interactives, and downloadable activities designed to provide a historical context for the show’s Depression-era setting while introducing the steps involved in bringing a show to Broadway. Highlights include videos featuring members of the ANNIE team talking about their careers, a selection of old time-style radio shows, a downloadable radio script for children to act out their own radio play, a map that enables users to compare NYC sites from today with the same places in the 1930s, and a variety of fun ANNIE-themed quizzes & games.
ANNIE: It’s the Hard-Knock Life, From Script to Stage, directed by award-winning filmmaker Joshua Seftel (Taking on the Kennedys, War Inc, This American Life) and produced by Joshua Seftel and Jill Landaker Grunes, follows the young actors of the beloved classic’s latest Broadway revival as they master the words and choreography of that famous number “It’s the Hard-Knock Life.” From casting and costume design to rehearsals and the first show on Opening Night, the film provides a comprehensive glimpse into the business of show business to both lovers of theater and aspiring performers alike.
Viewers are shown that it takes a village to put on a show while watching experienced professionals—including Tony Award winning choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (In The Heights), Tony Award winning costume designer Susan Hilferty (Wicked, Spring Awakening, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and set designer David Korins (Chinglish, Godspell, An Evening with Patti Lupone & Mandy Patinkin, Motown)—guide the young cast, most making their Broadway debut, as they perfect their performances. But it’s these young stars that truly steal the spotlight. The film features interviews with Emily Rosenfeld (orphan Molly), Tyrah Odoms (Kate) and others as they sing and dance their way to Opening Night.
ANNIE: It’s the Hard-Knock Life, From Script to Stage premieres on Friday, June 28 at 9 p.m. on PBS.