This made-for-TV adaptation of the hit Broadway musical (which was, in turn, based on the popular comic strip by Harold Gray) stars Alicia Morton as Annie, who lives in an orphanage run by the ill-tempered Miss Hannigan (Kathy Bates). Like the rest of the children, Annie doesn’t like the orphanage and hates Miss Hannigan, so she’s excited when famous and eccentric billionaire Daddy Warbucks (Victor Garber) picks Annie as the lucky orphan who gets to spend Christmas at his mansion. Warbucks is charmed by Annie’s spunk and good spirits and is eager to adopt her, but Annie is convinced that one day her real parents will come back to claim her. Eager to make her happy, Warbucks offers a sizable cash reward to whomever can find Annie’s mother and father; Miss Hannigan, seeing the possibility of an easy payday, concocts a scheme by which her brother Rooster (Alan Cumming) and his floozy girlfriend Lily (Kristin Chenoweth) will pose as Annie’s long-lost folks. Andrea McArdle, who originated the role of Annie on Broadway, has a supporting role as the Star-to-Be.
Alicia Morton is outstanding as the new version of Annie, playing the role with a guileless sincerity. Her co-actors, particularly Kathy Bates, Victor Garber and Audra McDonald, are also more than competent in their respective roles. Bates is funny, Garber plays both serious businessman and tender-hearted father figure to the fullest, and Garber’s vocal performance in “Something Was Missing” is moving. McDonald also brings a grace to her role which hits the right notes.
The TV production is slightly altered in a few scenes which do the story no harm. It did seem as if the story overall was somehow truncated, as Warbucks falls for the orphan pretty quickly in this version. But little matter. The music, acting and production values are all strong and we approve this Disney TV version of “Annie” for all ages. The film is wholesome with a few minor instances of note which is mentioned in the content listing below.