Raggedy Ann (found script and footage of Broadway musical; 1985-1986)
Raggedy Ann Playbill cover
Date found: 01 Sep 2021
Found by: Rag Dolly
Raggedy Ann (also known as Rag Dolly), was a Broadway production written by William Gibson, with music and lyrics composed by Joe Raposo, and directed by Patricia Birch. The musical is loosely based off the animated film Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977), and the Raggedy Ann and Andy books (1918-1977), but with a dark twist.
After the movie's initial release, Joe Raposo was approached by Patricia Snyder to adapt the film into a stage musical, bringing in playwright William Gibson to work alongside them. Gibson wasn't interested in the current story, a circus re-theming of a plot similar to the movie, and took inspiration from the real-life story of Raggedy Ann author Johnny Gruelle's daughter Marcella, who contracted diphtheria from an unsanitary smallpox vaccination and died at the age of 14.
The book and music were contracted separately, with Raposo getting double royalties as composer and lyricist. Gibson ran into a lot of pushback for his dark script, first from Raposo, and later from Bobbs-Merrill, who held the rights to the characters and the last word on the script. Snyder backed Gibson up, and many of the dark elements remained.
At one point Raposo, who was vice chairman of the ESIPA board of directors, attempted to get the board to vote to override Snyder’s authority and remove Gibson from the project. This backfired on the composer and he was briefly dropped from the production altogether but returned after revisions had been made to the script. Production began two years before Broadway, first with designers and then casting, and in October 1984 rehearsals began at the Egg and ran for five weeks before opening.
This show is considered found as of September 1st, 2021, when footage of the first production from December 15, 1984, was uploaded to the Rag Dolly YouTube channel under the name "Lost Raggedy Ann Musical (Recovered ESIPA Footage 12/15/1984)". However, there are still multiple pieces of the puzzle the search effort would like to find, especially regarding obtaining the rights to a revival (more info on this farther down).
The musical centred around Marcella, a little girl dying of a mysterious disease that her doctors have trouble diagnosing. She can't eat, can't sleep, and has issues breathing, and her death is imminent.
Her father is a depressed alcoholic, trying his best to keep his daughter happy, despite her fatal illness. It is told that Marcella's pet dog Red Fang died after eating her pet canary Yellow Yum Yum and that her mother abandoned both her and her father for a man in a Rolls Royce.
The father gives Marcella a chest full of rag dolls and tells her that if she sleeps, all her toys come alive and play in the nursery together, but if she doesn't fall asleep the dolls just stay in their box. Marcella eventually manages to fall asleep, and through a movie-length dream sequence, she, Raggedy Ann, Andy, and the rest of the toybox toys go on a vast journey from New York to L.A. to find the Doll Doctor, in hopes that he can save Marcella from an early death.
All the while, they are being hunted down by General D and his two henchmen, The Wolf (Red Fang) and The Bat (Yellow Yum Yum), and only have until 6 AM to get to the Doll Hospital. If they don't make it by then, Marcella will die, subsequently causing the doll’s deaths as well.
Along the way, we meet Marcella’s absent mother, lost and suicidal from bearing the regret of leaving her family behind. Mother and daughter reconcile their history and Marcella leaves to face General D.
The Gibson/Raposo version of the production was released on December 7th, 1984, under the title Rag Dolly.
However, almost immediately after its initial release, controversy arose after Ellen Allen, from Albany, New York, took her children to see the show. Appalled by the musical's dark subject matter, she went to the local news, concluding that the play depicted "portrayals of gruesome characters, a mother deserting her child, death, and even suicide.” This isn't that far from the truth since it has been said that the play had dark and sexual themes, with Marcella having nightmares about slaughterhouses, a forest of corpses, and her mother committing suicide.
After the news of the unexpectedly dark play went popular, several public schools' reservations were also cancelled due to this uproar. One of the educational directors said that “the themes of alcoholism, suicide, and murder were not appropriate for children.” William Gibson later replied, simply stating "The style is for children, the content is for me."
In 1985, the play was renamed Raggedy Ann, and the controversy died down.
Despite the bad reviews and controversy, the show got in Albany, the reviews were absolutely positive when it performed in Moscow as part of a cultural exchange, as seen in the 30-minute documentary Rag Dolly in the USSR. It rode the media buzz all the way through out-of-town tryouts at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
However, due to the few performances in Moscow, and the mere 5 performances on Broadway before its cancellation, the show never made it into historical popularity along with other shows at the time.
The musical itself had almost vanished into obscurity, for around 30 years it's been almost completely forgotten about, save for a video on YouTube that had a low-quality recording of the demo soundtrack and the 30-minute documentary about the performance of the show in Russia. However, at the beginning of 2018, a few things involving the show had been found and many more items were discovered in 2021, including our first look at the whole show.
An audio bootleg, recorded in 1986 during one of the Broadway performances, has been making its way through the internet and has been posted on YouTube in its full length, first posted by Vinnie Rattolle. It's low quality, but the bootleg has a new set of songs added to the soundtrack, preexisting songs have been changed, and the song Mexico has been cut. Later it was found the New York Public Library held a version of the script, though contact with them was difficult and the more people requested, the less likely they were to release it. Through this, we got confirmation of many of the darker elements.
More recently, far more material about the show has been uncovered, including scripts, production journals, press footage, and the aforementioned full pro shot.
On 3/15/2021 requested media from the Harvard archives was linked to in the Raggedy Ann lost media Discord server, containing 13 pdfs. These included seven scripts from various steps in production, four folders of various press and playbills, both from Moscow and the US productions, some very early story drafts, and a written account from the scriptwriter about his experience on the production.
Early drafts of the script mostly feature re-named or re-contextualized versions of the same characters and plot, with notably even darker tones than what ended up on stage.
On 2/19/2021 the Raposo estate sent scanned photos of Joe Raposo’s scoring for the music. The pages included early handwritten and often incomplete drafts of the following songs: Gingham and Yarn; Opening Sequence (instrumental); Carry On; Diagnosis; Mexico; A Little Music; She Comes Riding; Quiet Night; & Wolf Chase (instrumental).
While the original scans are unavailable to the public under the family’s request, fan clean-ups will be made available when finished. Nick Raposo also sent a high-quality recording of Gingham and Yarn, implying there were others from the demo. Which songs were recorded is yet to be confirmed or released.
Aside from the first known script, the New York Public Library also held a collection of photos taken for press releases. Some of these photos were then used publicly while others remained in their archives to be viewed on request, but similarly to the script this privilege they grant sparingly. The photos are archived privately among members of the community but many are not to be shared publicly.
On 04/29/2021 A member of the search effort server received a response from the New York State Archives that they did indeed have two tapes of footage of what they believed to be the first act of Rag Dolly filmed at the ESIPA on 12/15/1984. The items needed to be digitized and so the server set to work raising the funds and corresponding further with the NYSA to get the footage processed.
On 06/22/2021 they received the official invoice and the server worked together to pay for the processed footage to be transferred. It was decided to mail a thumb drive to the archives for the footage to be loaded onto.
On 07/11/2021 the thumb drive arrived and the videos were uploaded to the server, actually including both acts with only a short scene (the end of Carry On and Raggedy Ann’s introduction) missing. On 09/01/2021 this footage was uploaded under the name "Lost Raggedy Ann Musical (Recovered ESIPA Footage 12/15/1984)" on the YouTube channel Rag Dolly.
On 10/08/2021 the first of many PDFs of the Stan Applebaum orchestrations were uploaded to the server's archives. A member of the search effort visited the NYPL in person on multiple occasions to take pictures of the documents and uploaded the last of them by 11/02/21. These seem to be from the Kennedy Center version of the production, and almost every song is accounted for. Within the archives, several drafts of Raposo's from early production and the "circus draft" were also found.
On 4/16/2022, a cast member contacted by the search team sent over materials they had saved since their time in the show. This included an already-found script, an incomplete script with hand-written notes, photocopied news clippings, and a lot of brand-new sheet music.
What is still missing is the possibility of extra B-Roll footage from the documentary Rag Dolly in the USSR, which is possibly non-existent. The Ohio State University website claims they possess multiple pieces donated by the costume designer Carrie Robbins, which has been backed up by contracted cast members. These include costume notes, sketches, scripts, photographs, playbills, possibly even entire costumes, and two fish props from the boat scene. Unfortunately when contacted the archives revealed none of the media had been digitized. This process is in progress. Recently it was confirmed that a high-quality audio recording exists of the show, but it has been kept private at the request of cast and crew. Judging by what is known, it was likely taken directly from a soundboard sometime during Broadway previews.
What has been found are two soundtracks, one bootleg from its time on Broadway and a demo soundtrack recorded around the second ESIPA production in late 1985; seven versions of the script; the orchestrations at one point in revisions; multiple press photos from all productions; and one decent-quality video recording of the December 15th show during the 1984 ESIPA run.
Lost Media Wiki user Babydaisylover got in touch with Ivy Austin the one who plays Raggedy Ann on all of the Broadway versions who has plans about reviving the show. She said this to her in an email.
"Hello Babydaisylover! Happy New Year, and thank you so much for getting in touch with me about Raggedy Ann. I have been getting a lot of email lately from people like yourself who would like to know more about our show....and I am absolutely delighted! First, I must tell you that, although I wish I could, I cannot offer you a script. What I can tell you, is that there has been so much renewed interest in the piece, that I am trying to get a company interested in doing a licensing agreement after all these years, so that people can have a chance to experience this wonderful little show. But that may take a while :) For the record, there were many more public performances than you think. It took almost three years to develop the show, at a theatre in Albany, called The Egg (ESIPA), where we performed several versions of the show over the years. In the winter of 1986, we were invited to Moscow on a cultural exchange, where we performed to standing ovations for two weeks. In the summer of 1986, the show ran at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC for (I think) six weeks, where it was also a huge hit. If you go to my website, you will find a link to the lovely documentary filmed about Raggedy Ann in Moscow. On Broadway, we had ten previews, and four regular performances. On Facebook, a great page comes up if you search for Raggedy Ann on Broadway. That may lead you to some of the music....there are some rare recordings on YouTube. Unfortunately, both composer Joe Raposo and playwright William Gibson are gone, but most of the cast members, including director Patricia Birch, are alive and well, and we have remained friends. Lately, I have been in touch with another fan named McKenah—here’s the link to her blog:  So please don’t give up hope Babydaisylover! I am doing everything I can to put the pieces back together, and maybe someday, somewhere, people will get to do a production of our beloved show."
Many of these other cast members mentioned have been contacted as well and show enthusiasm for a revival. Through conversations with Ivy and others it was decided major changes would have to made, notably the character of Panda and the Witch's hanging scene are particularly offensive deceptions of racist stereotypes and mental illness, respectively. There is a major effort to revise the script while keeping as true to the original creator's vision as possible.
A team has formed out of the search server known as the Raggedy Ann Revival Effort (or R.A.R.E.) who are dedicating their time to make this happen. There has been a conversation with the Raposo estate about licensing the music for a revival, and the Gibson estate has been contacted, with negotiations under way to obtain permission to perform an adapted version of the script.
The first ESIPA production did not include all of the songs we know from the demo and Broadway soundtracks, notably the wedding scene in Quiet Night, and at the time He Comes Riding was sung by Wolf instead of General D. The second ESIPA production had a slightly different soundtrack from the Broadway, and included the song "Mexico," which was replaced with "Make Believe reprise". Various other songs from the second ESIPA production have been altered for the Broadway performance, including "You Never Get Away", which is now called "You'll Love It". Other songs were lightly modified with no notable changes.
- Act I
- "Overture" – Orchestra
- "Gingham and Yarn" – Company
- "Carry On" – Poppa
- "Diagnosis" – Doctors
- "The Light" – Marcella and Dolls
- "Make Believe" – Raggedy Ann & General D.
- "Blue" – The Camel & Raggedy Ann
- "Make Believe (Reprise 1)" – Raggedy Ann, Marcella, Dolls & Company
- "Make Believe (Reprise 2)" – Raggedy Ann & Marcella
- "Something in the Air" – Company
- "Delighted" – Clouds
- "So Beautiful" – Raggedy Ann, Marcella & Clouds
- "A Heavenly Chorus" – Yellow Yum-Yum
- "The Shooting Star" – Mommy, Poppa, and The Rat in the Rolls Royce
- "The Wedding" – Company
- "Rag Dolly" – Raggedy Ann
- Act II
- "Gingham and Yarn (reprise)" – Company
- "You'll Love It" – Bat, Raggedy Andy & the Batettes
- "A Little Music" – Marcella, Raggedy Ann, and Dolls
- "Gone" – Dolls & Company
- "Why Not?" – Mommy
- "What Did I Lose?" – Mommy
- "Somewhere" – Raggedy Ann
- "Welcome to L.A." – Nurses
- "Diagnosis (reprise)" – Doctors
- "I Come Riding" – General D.
- "Gingham and Yarn (reprise)" – Company
- "Rag Dolly (Finale)" – Cast
"Delighted" is listed in the preview playbill, but had been removed by the time of the Broadway bootleg.
|The Kennedy Center/Broadway
|Gary O. Aldrich
|Gary O. Aldrich
|Poppa/The Doll Doctor
|Carolyn Marble Valentis
|Carolyn Marble Valentis
|Carolyn Marble Valentis
|Paul Haggard/David Schramm
|Bat/Yellow Yum Yum
|Camel with the Wrinkled Knees
|Anny Degange Holgate
|John Thomas Maguire III
|John Thomas Maguire III