By Mary Boyle
I was a child in the eighties, and that meant that I grew up with Annie; the 1982 film (which was based on the musical which, in turn, was based on a comic strip), starring Carol Burnett as the evil Miss Hannigan and Aileen Quinn as Annie, was all the rage in my elementary school. In fact, the first and only play I was ever in was when my second grade class performed Annie for our parents; there was one little girl in our class who couldn't wait to wear her red curly wig and sing, while I was terrified of being an orphan and having to wake up and cry in the middle of the night in front of everyone. Interestingly, I didn't think of Annie as being a Christmas production—I'd long since forgotten that the holiday season plays a particularly important role in the story—but Skylight Music Theatre reminded me, and they gave all of us eighties kids a chance to introduce Annie to our own kids.
Annie (Double cast as Light/Sky: Eloise Field/KyLee Hennes) is the leader of the bunch of little girls in an orphanage in New York City, overseen by a lonely, eccentric, alcoholic tyrant of a woman by the name of Miss Hannigan (Carrie Hitchcock). Unlike the other children, Annie had a a half of a silver heart locket and a note from her parents promising they would return for her but, after 10 years of waiting and hardship, Annie decides to go looking for them herself. On the streets of New York, Annie befriends the homeless in the Depression-era "Hoovervilles," including a dog she names Sandy (Shiloh/Skippy), but a police officer manages to return her to the orphanage just in time for a bit of luck: a woman named Grace Farrell (Diane Lane) was there to choose an orphan to spend the holidays in the mansion owned by billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Andrew Varella).
Annie brings sunshine and optimism to all she meets, including Mr. Warbucks and President Roosevelt, himself (Dylan Bolin). When Mr. Warbucks offers a reward hoping to help Annie find her parents, it only seems to bring out the all of the wrong people, so he decides to adopt Annie, himself. Just when they think they've found her happily ever after, Annie's "parents" show up, but they are really Miss Hannigan's scheming brother, Rooster (Matt Crowle) and his lady, Lily St. Regis (Samantha Sostarich). Will the trick be discovered in time? If anyone's entitled to a Christmas miracle, it's this girl!
Director, Molly Rhode, was born the year Annie opened on Broadway: 1977. Both her and the musical celebrated their 40th birthday this year, but that's not the only reason this production is special to her. "I was 5 years old when the 1982 film came out [and] I had a small obsession with it. A story with a kid at the center, and that kid was a girl, and that girl had a fierce and fiery spirit. That girl was tough as nails, and though the world had only given her hardship, she remained full of optimism. She persisted. Annie is her own agent of change. She doesn't wait for things to happen to her, she seizes opportunity. What a stunning role model for my generation of girls."
As usual, Skylight has put together a very talented cast, full of Milwaukee favorites (these kids will knock your socks off!), and, of course, everyone loves a real dog on the stage. Fans of Annie will love the familiar songs, and the entire production builds an anticipation of the holiday season. This classic will feel like an instant holiday tradition, but it's really quite a rare opportunity, so I suggest getting your tickets while you can!
Tickets for Annie can be purchased in person at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office, located at 158 N. Broadway, or by calling (414) 291-7800, Monday – Saturday, noon - 6 p.m. Box Office hours are noon - 6 p.m., and the Box Office window is also open two hours prior to each performance. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.skylightmusictheatre.org.
About Skylight Music Theatre
Skylight Music Theatre’s mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition. Skylight presents productions “Skylight Style” – bringing fresh approaches or interesting twists to music theatre works, creating meaningful connections, not only between the characters on stage but with the audience as well. The beautiful, intimate Cabot Theatre allows audiences to feel close to the powerful emotions on stage.