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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER REID SHELTON
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The big-hearted billionaire of Annie


Annie, the touching musical about seven little orphan girls in New York City at Christmastime during the Great Depression, has been the Broadway show against which all others must be compared ever since it opened in April, 1977.

That year it won seven Tony Awards. Later the movie rights were sold for a record $9.5 million. There are now companies performing the musical in Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, England, South Africa, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia. The album has gone gold. Still a sellout virtually every night at the Alvin Theatre, its tickets are the hardest to obtain of any show in town.

Two of the three leading characters — those of Annie and the cruel, gin sodden orphanage director Miss Hannigan — have been twice replaced by new performers. But Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, the bald-headed billionaire with a heart as big as his bank account, has been played since the beginning by Reid Shelton, a Westside actor long known for his portrayal of powerful figures on stage — cardinals and kings, statesmen and presidents.

On December 23rd, just a few days short of its 1,200th performance, Reid will finally leave the New York company to star in Annie on the West Coast. He has no plans, at this point, of giving up the role that earned him a Tony nomination for Best Actor.

"I've had two three-week vacations and I've missed four performances in almost three years," says Reid in his dressing room on a recent afternoon. Easing his tall, bulky frame onto a sofa, he immediately reveals a personality that is warm, good-humored and eager to please. His broad, all-American features give distinction to his gleaming, newly shaved head. Reid shaves twice a day with an electric razor.

"My understudy plays Roosevelt in the show, and of course for the four performances that he's had to go on for me, he didn't shave his head," laughs the 55-year-old actor. "I've gotten the most angry letters from people saying, 'Well my God, can't you at least have the understudy shave his head? How dare you do that to us!'"

Asked about his qualifications for playing a billionaire, Reid says, "I don't know whether it's my look, personality, or what, but people have always thought that I've come from money. Actually, my family during the Depression was very poor."

Born and raised in Salem, Oregon, he began studying voice while a high school freshman, doing chores in exchange for lessons. After graduation, he was drafted into the First Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army, fought in the Pacific, then receiv............
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