Thomas Meehan (writer)

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Thomas Meehan
BornThomas Edward Meehan
(1929-08-14)August 14, 1929
Ossining, New York, U.S.
DiedAugust 21, 2017(2017-08-21) (aged 88)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materHamilton College
Notable worksAnnie
The Producers
Notable awardsTony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical
  • Karen Meehan (divorced)
  • Carolyn Wagstaff Capstick
    (m. 1988)

Thomas Edward Meehan (August 14, 1929[1][2] – August 21, 2017) was an American playwright. He wrote the books for the musicals Annie, The Producers, Hairspray, Young Frankenstein and Cry-Baby. He co-wrote the books for Elf: The Musical and Limelight: The Story of Charlie Chaplin.[3]

He received the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical three times—in 1977 for Annie, in 2001 for The Producers (shared with Mel Brooks), and in 2003 for Hairspray (shared with Mark O'Donnell).[4]

Early life[edit]

Meehan was born in Ossining, New York, but grew up in Suffern, New York.[5] His father, Thomas, was a businessman, and his mother, Helen Cecilia O’Neill, was an emergency department nurse.[6] He graduated from Hamilton College.[5]


Meehan moved to Manhattan at age 24, and worked at The New Yorker's "Talk of the Town".[7]

In 1972, Meehan was approached by Martin Charnin to work on a musical based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie.[4] At first, Meehan was skeptical to accept the offer, but eventually accepted the offer after reading the strip.[6] Meehan wrote Annie with Charles Strouse, who wrote the music, and Martin Charnin who directed and wrote the lyrics.[8] The production took five years to get to Broadway, but after opening in 1977 ran for 2,377 performances.[6]

Additional credits include Ain't Broadway Grand; Oh, Kay!; Bombay Dreams, a musical adaptation of I Remember Mama; and Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge, which was subsequently reworked and re-staged Off-Broadway as Annie Warbucks.[9] He also wrote the libretto to the opera 1984.[10][4]

In addition, Meehan was a long-time contributor of humor to The New Yorker, including the famous short story "Yma Dream"; an Emmy Award-winning writer of television comedy; and a collaborator on a number of screenplays, including Mel Brooks' Spaceballs; a remake of To Be or Not to Be; and the family drama One Magic Christmas.[11] Meehan went on to work with Brooks on other projects on Broadway, including The Producers, based on the 1967 film. The show became a Broadway hit that dominated the 2001 Tony Awards and ran for more than 2,500 performances.[6]

Meehan followed that with Hairspray, an adaptation based on John Waters’s 1988 film of the same name. It opened in 2002 and ran for 2,642 performances.[6] He co-wrote the book, with Bob Martin, for Elf the Musical.[10][4][12] He co-wrote the book for the production of the musical Limelight: The Story of Charlie Chaplin which ran at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2010[13] and premiered on Broadway in 2012. In 2011 he revised the book originally written by Peter Stone for the Off-Broadway musical Death Takes a Holiday with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston.[14]

In 2012, Meehan wrote the book from the original screenplay by Sylvester Stallone[15] for the musical Rocky.[16] The show premiered in Hamburg in 2012,[17] before transferring to Broadway in 2014.[4][18]

Meehan held the distinction of being the only writer to have written three Broadway shows that ran for more than 2,000 performances.[19] Reflecting on his work in an interview with The New York Observer in 1999, Meehan said "I wrote stories that were serious, very somber, 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".[20]


Meehan died from cancer at his home in Manhattan on August 21, 2017, one week after his 88th birthday.[21][6] Five months prior to his death, Meehan had undergone surgery, which later caused his health to deteriorate.[22]

Meehan was survived by two children from his first marriage with Karen Meehan, which ended in divorce, and three other children with Carolyn Wagstaff Capstick, whom he married in 1988 and with whom he remained until his death.[6]

Mel Brooks memorialized Meehan, tweeting "I'll miss his sweetness & talent. We have all lost a giant of the theatre."[23]

In 2023 his archives were donated to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Billy Rose Theatre Division.[24]


Selected filmography[edit]



  1. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF).
  2. ^ Some other sources state 1932 and 1934 as a year of birth. The U.S. copyright office entry under his name lists 1929.
  3. ^ "'Annie,' 'The Producers' writer Thomas Meehan dies at 88". WCVB News. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Thomas Meehan (Writer)". Playbill. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Thomas Meehan bio" Archived June 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, accessed March 12, 2011. according to this biography, Meehan was born in 1929)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Genzlinger, Neil (August 22, 2017). "Thomas Meehan, Who Wrote the Books for Broadway Hits, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  7. ^ Larocca, Amy (November 15, 1999). "Thomas Meehan, Writer … Horst of Fifth Avenue". The New York Observer. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  8. ^ Hetrick, Adam; McPhee, Ryan (August 22, 2017). "Thomas Meehan, Tony-Winning Writer of Annie, Dies at 88". Playbill.
  9. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (January 16, 1990). "Troubled 'Annie 2' Closing Out of Town; Revisions Planned". The New York Times. p. C15.
  10. ^ a b "Thomas Meehan". Who's Who,, Retrieved January 30, 2011. Archived January 8, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ One Magic Christmas at the TCM Movie Database
  12. ^ Hetrick, Adam (August 11, 2010). "Beth Leavel, Mark Jacoby and George Wendt to Star in Elf – The Musical on Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  13. ^ Jones, Kenneth (September 19, 2010). "Limelight Musical, Starring Robert McClure and Ashley Brown, Opens at La Jolla Sept. 19". Playbill. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  14. ^ Suskin, Steven (October 20, 2011). "ON THE RECORD: Maury Yeston's Death Takes a Holiday and the London Album of Styne, Comden and Green's Do Re Mi". Playbill. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  15. ^ Gardner, Elysa (April 28, 2013). "'Rocky' musical bound for Broadway in 2014". USA Today. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  16. ^ Healy, Patrick (December 5, 2012). "Yo, Adrian! I'm Singin'!". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  17. ^ "Sylvester Stallone talks 'Rocky' musical". Toronto Sun. October 17, 2013. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  18. ^ Cox, Gordon (April 28, 2013). "'Rocky' Musical Set for a Bout With Broadway". Variety. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  19. ^ Nakamura, Reid (August 22, 2017). "Thomas Meehan, Writer of 'Annie,' 'Hairspray' and 'The Producers,' Dies at 88". The Wrap. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  20. ^ "Thomas Meehan, Tony-Winning Story Writer of 'Annie,' 'Hairspray' Dies". NBC News. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  21. ^ Gerard, Jeremy (August 22, 2017). "Thomas Meehan Has Died; 'Spaceballs', 'Annie', 'The Producers' Author Was 88". Deadline. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  22. ^ "'Annie' writer Thomas Meehan dies at age 88". Fox News. August 22, 2017.
  23. ^ "Mel Brooks on Twitter". Twitter. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  24. ^ Hall, Margaret. "Thomas Meehan's Archive Donated to New York Public Library for the Performing Arts". Playbill.

External links[edit]