Thomas Meehan, Tony Award-winning story writer of hit musical Annie, dies at 88

A scene from the hit 1977 Broadway musical Annie.
A scene from the hit 1977 Broadway musical Annie.PHOTO: ANNIE

NEW YORK - According to online reports, Thomas Meehan, the co-writer of Broadway hits Annie, The Producers, and Hairspray, has died. He was 88.

The Hollywood Reporter said that Meehan, who had been ill for about five months and had undergone surgery, died at his home in Manhattan late Monday or early Tuesday, according to longtime friend and Annie collaborator Martin Charnin said.

"There's a hole in my heart," Charnin said. "It's a gigantic loss, not only to the industry but also to us. We've been together and so close since the 1950s."

Tributes on social media included Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda calling Meehan "one of the best around".

Variety said that the winner of three Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical was one of Broadway's most prominent librettists. He won for Annie (1977), The Producers (2001) and Hairspray (2002), all three of which ran for more than 2,000 performances on Broadway. Playbill said that he is the only creative to have written the books for three such shows.

He also wrote the book for musicals I Remember Mama (1979), Bombay Dreams (2004), Young Frankenstein (2007), Elf (2010), and Rocky (2014), among others.

Meehan told the Observer newspaper in 1999: "I wrote stories that were serious, very sombre, trying to be in the style of William Faulkner. My career has always been that every time I try something really serious, it's no good, but if I try to be funny, then it works."

According to Variety, his writing credits for film and television included To Be Or Not To Be (1983) and Spaceballs (1987). In 1970, he won an Emmy Award as the co-writer of Annie: The Women In The Life Of A Man, a TV special centred around American actress, director and screenwriter Anne Bancroft.

Born Aug 14, 1929, in Ossining, New York, Meehan went to Hamilton College in New York state and began his professional life as a writer for The New Yorker. His comic pieces in that magazine brought him to the attention of Charnin, who enlisted him as a writer on Bancroft's television special, which Charnin produced.

According to Playbill, he made his Broadway debut in 1977, collaborating with Charnin and composer Charles Strouse on a stage musical adaptation of Harold Gray's comic strip Little Orphan Annie. The smash hit Annie ran for 2,377 performances.

Meehan is survived by his wife.