While the world rightfully continues to go bonkers over "Hamilton," I've recently found myself pleasantly lost in the past with another Broadway smash hit. The nearly 40-year-old -- can it be? -- "Annie."
This was prompted by my nephew playing Oliver Warbucks in his high school's production. It reminded me of how great a musical this is, even when performed by theater novices (including, in this case, a Harlequin Great Dane named Waffle in the role of Sandy.)
Now, just hang with me; we're getting to the WNBA, with its 20th season just launched. Immersing myself in "Annie" trivia, I discovered that Andrea McArdle, forever famous as the definitive, original Broadway "Annie," was not actually the first to be cast for the role. She was originally Pepper, the feistiest orphan.
Kristen Vigard was Annie, but not long into the musical's pre-Broadway run in Connecticut, she was replaced. Annie was a street-smart survivor. She needed some moxie, a little edge. Vigard's "Annie" was deemed just too "sweet." (If you think it's hard for WNBA teams to cut players, imagine telling an adolescent that she's no longer the lead in a soon-to-be Broadway musical.)
Even in the smaller role, the Philadelphia native McArdle already had shown she had the voice to carry a musical. Then she took Broadway by storm by playing the fictional New York orphan as ... well, more like a lovable but tough Philly girl.
Which brings us to -- ta-da! -- our favorite "Philly girl" in the WNBA, Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve. We say this affectionately; surely there are Philly folk who don't fit the stereotype and have no edge at all. But, hey, they're no fun.
The La Salle grad Reeve is both a top-notch tactician and a savvy motivator. Because no matter what "outsiders" say, she's able to use it to help her Lynx.
Thus, when the league's survey of general managers picked Phoenix to win the WNBA title, Reeve used it as a, "Look, they think we're no good!" slight. If, by contrast, someone said that the Lynx, with four U.S. Olympians and a deep, talented bench, absolutely must be the favorites, Reeve would say, "Oh, right! As if it's that easy!"
Although the season is just getting started, the Lynx already have that "team to beat" vibe. What else have we seen so far? In honor of "Annie" (you knew it was coming), we'll look to some of the show's tunes to take us around the league.
If the Lynx avoid injuries and play the way they have so far, they'll be very strong bets to secure the No. 1 seed (which, along with No. 2, gets an automatic trip to postseason semifinals). We won't say that's like being on "Easy Street," but it will be a big help toward taking the title.
Can anyone really stop the Lynx from finishing first this season? Well ... "Maybe." Which is really my way of saying I don't think so. Unlike those pesky GMs, here at espnW, we actually did pick the Lynx to win it all. Precisely for the reasons mentioned: the talent both in the starting five and the bench, plus Reeve's ability to get the most from that. Yes, she's going to need to use that bench, and Minnesota's double-digit victories over Phoenix and Chicago are going to motivate both those teams, too.
Chicago and Dallas won their openers despite the fact that "Something Was Missing" for both: Elena Delle Donne for the Sky and Skylar Diggins for the Wings. EDD returned for Chicago's second game, Wednesday's 97-80 loss to the Lynx. But neither Diggins nor Glory Johnson have played thus far for Dallas, yet the Wings are 2-1. Hometown girl Odyssey Sims is leading the way for Dallas, averaging 16.7 points.
Liberty fans have to like how things have started in "N.Y.C." The Liberty did some wheeling and dealing before the season began to add Shoni Schimmel and Amanda Zahui B., but neither of those young players are being depended on to do much. Center Tina Charles (24.0 PPG) and guard Sugar Rodgers (21.5) have been dazzling in New York's 2-0 start. Next up, a visit Saturday from Los Angeles.
Speaking of the Sparks, they welcomed Seattle's No. 1 pick Breanna Stewart to the league by beating the Storm by 30 points. That said, Stewie's motto for the WNBA should be, "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here." You could tell she was adjusting even as the game went on, and she finished with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Stewart and Jewell Loyd (20 points) are the future, even if the present is likely going to be a grind for the Storm. Especially opening their season with three of the best teams: L.A., Phoenix and Minnesota.
The Sparks have always kind of relished kind of being the "not nice guys" in the WNBA, which was a designation given them in part because of their initial affiliation with the swaggering Lakers. The Sparks looked very good in their opener -- Candace Parker had 34 points -- and you get the sense they feel they have a lot to prove this season with so much attention on the Lynx and Mercury. The Sparks might seem just a tad bit "growly" because of that, with the exception of Nneka "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" Ogwumike. Is there a more sunshiny great player?
Ogwumike had 13 points and seven rebounds Sunday, and Sparks coach Brian Agler loves the energy and positive vibe she brings to the team.
Diana Taurasi is back this season, and it's understandable if Phoenix fans are thinking, "I Don't Need Anything But You," in regard to their beloved star. The Mercury are 0-2 despite Taurasi's 18- and 32-point performances. What Phoenix also needs is improved defense, having allowed Minnesota to shoot 54.1 percent from the field, and seven Indiana players to score in double figures. The Mercury will have their home opener on Friday, though, so they may look at that as kind of a re-start.
By the way, the Mercury have invited a player from Taurasi's alma mater, Don Lugo High School in Chino, California, to Friday's game. Ana Resendiz broke the school's single-season 3-point record, previously held by Taurasi, with 136 treys. Her idol is, of course, Taurasi, who has been inspiring "Little Girls" (and little boys) for quite a while now.
We predicted that "It's the Hard Knock Life" this season for Atlanta, San Antonio, Washington and Seattle, and we'll see if that holds true with those teams not making the playoffs. But they do have one victory among them so far: The Dream's win over the Stars.
Will the Sun come out "Tomorrow" in Connecticut? No, their home opener is actually Saturday, after playing twice on the road, and this is a team that we won't really be able to gauge for a while. With so many young players and a new coach, the Sun may take a while to develop their identity. Even so, the show must go on.