Leapin' Lizards! They almost didn't let Daddy into the White House yesterday.
Daddy Warbucks, that is. And for that matter, Little Orphan annie. And her dog Sandy. And 25 cast and production members of the new musical "Annie." And even Mike Nichols, the famous Hollywood director who is making his debut as a producer with the opening at the Kennedy Center of "Annie."
For Daddy Warbucks, that legendary champion of the Free Enterprise System, to be kept waiting nearly an hour by White House police might once have been enough to make artist Harold Gray spin in his grave.
Instead, it merely made White House aides of First Lady Rosalynn Carter spin a little in the East Room.
"Getting in," said a mildly amused Nichols later with a trace of understatement, "was the only problem" of his $800,000 production's abbreviated one-night White House stand.
The day's scenario called fro a morning rehearsal of the half-hour preview adaptation of the musical opening Saturday at the Kennedy Center. President and Mrs. Carter had asked the nation's governors over for dinner and a special afterdinner preview of "Annie" last night.
Eventually, the morning's scenario was played out with Daddy (actor Reid Shelton), Annie (Andrea McArdle), Miss Hannigan (Dorothy Loudon), Sandy (Sandy), Nichols (Nichols),and the others running through lines, tunes and arts.
And as it turned out, the Carters, the governors and others among the President's guests had somewhat of a surprise in store. Daddy Warbucks had changed since his creator first portrayed him as a 20th-century standin for another great historical right-winger, Charlemagne.
Daddy, you see, has been redrawn for the musical comedy stage by play-wright Thomas Meehan and set to words and music by Martia Charnin and Charles Strouse, repectively. Right there in front of Carter and everybody, he would emerge as an honest-to-goodness left-wing liberal.
"Annie humanizes him," explained Nichols. "He starts out as a reactionary who says he doesn't care who he steps on."
"He was a problem for us," added Meehan. "So we changed his politics from a right-wing Republican to a left-wing Democrat. Daddy hated FDR, you know, and som e people now are claiming that it's like we made Shylock in the "Merchant of Venice' a gentile.
"But the significance," Meehan continued, is that is our Annie, not Harold Gray's."
Even so, Annie is ever the walf, that gutay foundling of The Depression who turns out to be "the something missing" from multimillionaire Daddy Warbuck's life, the spunky little optimist who reassures a president that despite unemployment, strikes, the stock market, drought and growing totalitarianism abroad "you can bet your bottom dollar tomorrow will be better."
Before it is all over, Annie, Daddy, FDR and his cabinet set the New Deal to music. And Sandy, a cur who had been within hours of the eternal sleep last summer when trainer Bill Berloni adopted him from a Connecticut animal shelter, probably is in line to become a star.
Not that you'd have said so yesterday morning. The moment he hit the East Room stage, he spotted the Gilvert Stuart portrait of Martha Washington and made a beeline for it.
"Arf," said Sandy.