The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
If you’re like me, your most indelible impression of the iconic dancer, actor, and choreographer Ann Reinking – who died in December – is from her role in the movie version of the musical Annie, because either you, your kids, or someone in your household has watched that movie several hundred times.
As Daddy Warbucks’s secretary Grace, Reinking spends most of the movie being sweet and supportive and blandly likable, a dutiful employee and a pleasant screen presence. Until the good news comes down that it looks like Warbucks is going to be able to adopt Annie. Then the storytelling screeches to a halt, Grace sets aside all the filing and typing on her daily agenda, and we launch into “We Got Annie,” a song that wasn’t in the stage musical but has been wedged into the movie adaptation strictly to give Ann Reinking an excuse to Do Her Thing.
She bops and struts and shimmies and slides. She partners with the gardener for lifts and spins. She sits for a saucy, jazzy harp interval since all rich people’s mansions have harps. She reveals that, in addition to shorthand and dictation, the “Other Skills” section of her resume includes Fosse-esque arm extensions.
It’s an unprecedented moment for the character, and for the movie – all the musical numbers up to that point have either been cinematically intimate – a girl and her dog; a girl and her window; an orphanage manager and her bottle of illicit booze – or big and overcrowded, panoramic spectacles of flipping orphans and synchronized cleaning staff. But “We Got Annie” is mostly just Reinking stretching her mile-long legs across wide vistas of Warbucks real estate. Compared to the rest of the show’s insidiously hummable score, “We Got Annie” isn’t much of a song; it’s very nearly tuneless and intermittently racist. But as an excuse to watch a legendary dancer work her magic, it’s perfect.
Though Reinking was renowned as a dancer, she also had a voice. You can hear her pipes on cast recordings of the musicals Chicago and Goodtime Charley via the library’s subscription to the music download service Freegal.
Or you could use Hoopla to listen to the original cast recording of the 1972 show Pippin and just picture how Reinking must have found a way to own that stage as a 22-year-old chorus dancer.