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March 23, 2007

"Annie's" Other Roy

Roy Meachum

Sandy in The Hippodrome's "Annie."

Going into Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre Tuesday night, I faced separate but major realties. "Annie" launched my son's theatrical career and I had never seen the musical before. It was worth the wait.

There were seats waiting for the Kennedy Center premiere in March 1977. Roy Neal Meachum III was backstage; for the weeks of rehearsal he had worked as production assistant, taking care of the dogs that played Sandy. But I was a no-show. I had left my Channel 5 critic's job the Friday before.

During the Broadway run that stretched through 2,377 performances, I kept waiting for a call that Roy was going on. He understudied the Franklin Delano Roosevelt role. I wanted to see him cavorting as the ex-president.

The call never came, although he filled in on several occasions. As those things go, my son never knew until he walked into the Alvin or one of the other theatres played during the long-run, a record for the 1970s. Today's cell phones would have solved the communications problem; they didn't exist.

After the closing, January 2, 1983, by then promoted to production stage manager, Roy took the show on the road. I can remember his description of Dallas' downtown emptiness at night.

Tiring of Manhattan's whirl-a-jig, interrupted by work on various touring productions, my son decided to return to Washington. I hauled him back in my old car, August 1987.

Almost instantly - as such things go - Frankie Hewitt hired the Broadway veteran to help produce Ford Theatre's first "Christmas Carol." He stayed as production stage manager for the house of Mr. Lincoln's assassination for almost 19 years, working literally scores of presentations.

The redheaded lady from Oklahoma was a fabulous lady and a friend despite our quarrels over shows. She let me in early on her plan to restore the 19th century theater. Of course I didn't believe. But in February, 1968, we were all there for "John Brown's Body."

Former First Lady Barbara Bush rendered the eulogy at Frankie Hewitt's funeral services. She was cut down by cancer. It took a while to select a successor. My son continued briefly for the new management.

Roy Neal Meachum III departed Ford's after the 2005 season; he objected strongly to changes, especially sacking the traditional "Christmas Carol" for a parody.

Readers will be happy to know my son's career bubbles along. He worked recently as a production stage manager, handling shows in Atlantic City and various cities, including Palm Springs, California.

But the last time he appeared in an acting role was on Broadway, where he worked with John Schuck. The Daddy Warbucks in the Hippodrome's current show mastered the part during an extended run in New York.

In the event, John Schuck and the entire shebang move out after this Sunday's show and Roy's packing bags for his next production.

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