“Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll love you tomorrow, it’s only a day away.”
Those famous words from the 1977 Broadway musical “Annie:” were written by Martin Charnin, who died last month at the age of 84. I never met Mr. Charnin, but I have felt connected to him for a long time. Here’s why.
First, Dorothy Loudon. She was Miss Hannigan, the play’s hateful matron at the orphanage where Annie and the other young girls led a “Hard Knock Life,” another memorable song from the show. “Dot” (as my mother called her) won the Tony Award for “Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.” I didn’t see her perform, and I don’t recall ever meeting her. But my mother called her “Dot” because, like me, she grew up in Claremont and went to Stevens High School. I took piano lessons from her mother, although you wouldn’t know it today.
Second, Melissa Cannon. She lived next door to us in a Boston suburb and was best friends with my daughter Lizzie when they were young. So she was in and out of our house, where she would regularly sing “Tomorrow” and other songs from “Annie.” She had a very good voice.
So good, in fact, that when Martin Charnin announced he was conducting open tryouts for the role of Annie in the first national tour, taking over from Andrea McArdle, Melissa persuaded her mother to take her to New York to try out for the part. They arrived to find hundreds of redheaded girls outside the theatre in Times Square, but somehow they managed to get in. It turned out to be a long day.
By late afternoon it was down to a dozen talented young hopefuls, and by the dinner break the process of elimination left just two, Melissa and another redhead. They came back that evening, and back and forth it went. Finally, Mr. Charnin decided that Melissa was too tall, and he chose the other girl.
My third connection with Martin Charnin is the one that has affected me the most. It goes back to around 1980. I was attending the Jewish High Holiday services, and I heard a remarkable sermon that began with the rabbi telling us that he was going to talk about “Annie.” That got my immediate attention, given my Loudon and Melissa connections. Then he quoted the lyrics that appear in the first line of this essay, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll love you tomorrow, it’s only a day away.”
“The song is wrong,” the rabbi said. “If you really love someone, you must love them today.” If you’re over 40, he said, you owe it to those you love to make “arrangements” today.
What he meant, of course, was that part of being a grownup is to recognize that life isn’t forever, and you should do what you can to make it easier for those you love and leave behind. He talked specifically about picking out a burial plot.
I have come to recognize over the years that the point of that long-ago sermon was much broader than buying a small piece of land or making some other type of funeral arrangements. It was about procrastination in general, which Charles Dickens once called “the thief of time.”
There is, after all, only so much time to be had. Doing the important stuff can’t wait ‘til tomorrow, much less the day after. If we follow the rabbi’s advice, and do it today, then chances are, to quote Mr. Charnin once again, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.”