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Martin Charnin, Lyricist and Original Director of Annie, Dies at 84

Charnin earned a Tony for his work.

Martin Charnin has died at the age of 84.
(© David Gordon)

Martin Charnin, the Tony-winning lyricist and original director of the legendary Broadway musical Annie, has died at the age of 84 following a heart attack.

The son of an opera singer, Charnin, born November 24, 1934, received his BFA from Cooper Union and, despite no performance training, landed the part of Big Deal in the original production of West Side Story after spotting an ad for an open audition call. Charnin went on to play the role 1,000 times on Broadway and across the country.

Charnin's first Broadway musical for which he wrote the lyrics was the Mary Rodgers collaboration Hot Spot in 1963. He collaborated with Richard Rodgers on 1970's Two by Two, and made his Broadway directorial debut with the 1973 Ogden Nash revue Nash at Nine. For much of the '70s, Charnin worked in television, earning Emmys for his Anne Bancroft-Mel Brooks vehicle Annie, the Women in the Life of a Man; and the Fred Astaire, Jack Lemmon, Ethel Merman-starring S'Wonderful, S'Marvelous, S'Gershwin.

Annie, which featured Charnin's lyrics and direction, music by Charles Strouse, and a book by Thomas Meehan, premiered at the Goodspeed Opera House in 1976 before moving to Broadway the next year. The original production ran for 2,377 performances and earned Charnin the Tony for Best Score. The musical won six other Tonys, including Best Musical. Charnin was heavily involved with subsequent productions over the decades; he directed dozens of Annies across the world, including the 20th anniversary Broadway revival, the 30th anniversary tour, and the most recent national tour in 2015. He cowrote and directed its short-lived off-Broadway sequel, Annie Warbucks, and won a Grammy for Jay-Z's Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem), which sampled material from "It's the Hard-Knock Life."

Additionally, Charnin penned the lyrics for Broadway's I Remember Mama, The Madwoman of Central Park West, and The First, which he also directed. On Broadway, his directorial work includes A Little Family Business, Cafe Crown, and The Flowering Peach.

Survivors include his wife, Shelly Burch Charnin; his children; and three grandchildren.

Martin Charnin (right) with the 2012 Broadway company of Annie, a production that was directed by James Lapine.
(© David Gordon)
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