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Writer of ‘Annie,’ ‘Hairspray’ musicals, Thomas Meehan, dies

LOS ANGELES — Thomas Meehan, the co-writer of Broadway hits “Annie,” “The Producers,” and “Hairspray,” has died. He was 88.

The winner of three Tony Awards, Meehan was one of Broadway’s most prominent librettists. He won his first Tony Award for the book to “Annie,” the iconic 1977 smash on which he collaborated with composer Charles Strouse and lyricist-director Martin Charnin. He went on to win a Tony for “The Producers” (for the book he co-wrote with Mel Brooks) and one for “Hairspray” (co-written with Mark O’Donnell).

He also wrote for film and television, with big-screen work that included co-writing credits on “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 centered around Anne Bancroft.

Born Aug. 14, 1929 in Ossining, N.Y., 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 TV special, which Charnin produced.

That initial job with Charnin led Meehan to his work on “Annie,” which was one of Broadway’s biggest hits at the time and went on to become a regional theater staple (and a cash cow for its creators). Strouse, Charnin, and Meehan made two attempts at a sequel to the show: The first, “Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge,” earned poor notices in its 1989 premiere at the Kennedy Center, but a 1993 try, “Annie Warbucks,” played Off Broadway.

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

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