Time for upbeat spirit of 'Annie'?

'Cats" has lost its purr. The "Starlight Express" has been derailed. "The Fantasticks" just aren't fantastic anymore.

"Cats" will close in London May 11, exactly 21 years after it opened. (It closed on Broadway Sept. 10, 2000). In addition, "Starlight Express," another venerable Andrew Lloyd Webber musical from the '80s, has just closed in London.

But that pales in comparison with "The Fantasticks," the lovable little off-Broadway musical that just went dark after 42 years and 17,162 performances.

It's a down time for theater in general in both cities. At least part of the blame has been attributed to fewer musical-loving tourists, an aftershock of Sept. 11.

I have a proposal for a Broadway show that would draw crowds now: Revive the '70s musical "Annie." Seeing a rousing production by the Seacoast Repertory Company in Portsmouth, N.H., last week reminded me how it just may be the show for our troubled times.

Eleven-year-old orphan Annie uses her spunky spirit to overcome the loss of her parents and, what's more, show President Roosevelt how to pull America out of the Depression by giving it a "New Deal."

In the song "NYC," she and the cast sing of New York City:

"You crowd, you cramp,

You're still the champ.

Amen for NYC ...

What is it about you?

You're big, You're loud,

You're tough, NYC.

I go years without you,

Then I can't get enough ...

Too busy, too crazy,

Too hot, Too cold,

Too late, I'm sold

Again on NYC."

I can see the TV commercials now. Can't you?

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