The Slightly off Broadway Theatre’s newest production showcases a cast of all ages in an age-old classic musical.
Known worldwide, Annie tells the story of a young orphan who’s never-say-die optimism keeps her looking for the sun to come out tomorrow.
For Director Tanya Duncan, however, the musical tells much more than just the story of Annie. The show can introduce children the important historical events and figures they may not know.
“Probably the most important thing about Annie to is that it introduces to all the young people in the cast a period in time and people with whom they are not familiar,” she said.
The show takes place during The Great Depression and introduces the audience to places such as Hoovervilles, a shanty town build by those made homeless during the financial struggles of the time period.
Annie also meets Franklin Delano Roosevelt (portrayed by SOB veteran Patrick Simpson) and his cabinet, including female cabinet member, Former United States Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (portrayed by Simpson’s wife and fellow SOB veteran Dawn Stevenson), during the time they create FDR’s New Deal.
Duncan said she feels it is important for children to know females in government, although sparse at the time, did exist.
The musical shows more than just history, however, Musical Director Andrew Morris said the audience will tap their toes and want to sing along with the cast as they sing lively and well-known musical numbers. The community will be impressed, he said, as cast members young and old sing and dance their way across the stage.
The main storyline, Morris said, explores the relationship of Annie and Daddy Warbucks, a billionaire, who decides to open his home to an orphan during the Christmas holidays.
The audience should not expect the well-known movies, however, but as Morris said, the musicals, like books, are often better than the movies.
“Everyone says the book is better than the movie … that’s how I feel about a lot of musicals too,” he said. “If you like it on film, you really should listen to the original score. That’s better.”
SOB newcomer Madelyn Hazlett will grace the stage as Annie. Describing the character as “tough and exciting,” she said she looks forward to opening the show.
Hazlett, who attends fifth grade at Lawson Middle School, began taking vocal lessons three years ago. Her mom Melissa said she began researching local stage opportunities because Madelyn wants to eventually appear in movies and on Broadway. Her daughter even began asking for an agent each year for her birthday, she said laughing.
Always the performer, Madelyn choreographed her own production to “It’s a Hard Knock Life” last summer, using Melissa’s broom and dust rags for props.
Melissa said she believed Madelyn connected with Annie’s optimistic and positive outlook on life.
The production also showcases David Shewell and Jean Meachum Barratt as the iconic characters of Daddy Warbucks and Miss Agatha Hannigan.
For them both, this production will be a return to the musical after SOB’s last Annie production 16 years ago. Meachum Barratt, who reprises her role as Hannigan said she always seems to find herself as the mean character in the production.
“If you want evil, you want mean, you call Jean,” she said laughing.
She said people should expect a vastly different ending for the iconic character than the one portrayed by Carol Burnett in the 1982 movie. Meachum Barratt said she will not be riding off stage on an elephant after hooking up with the butler.
Shewell said he grew sad when he first read the script and noticed a missing Punjab. However, with his portrayal as Rooster 16 years ago and his currently portrayal of Warbucks, Shewell said he grew to love the musical. Annie, he said, changes the world for his character, and basically teaches the career driven billionaire how to be a human being.
Meachum Barratt said the community should come out simply to see a classic.
“It’s going to be around forever,” she said. “They’re going to redo it, and redo it, and redo it, and redo it until its done to death, but people are going to love it because it’s a good story.”
Annie will open Aug. 2 and will run through Aug. 18. Friday and Saturday performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. with 2:30 p.m. matinée performances on Aug. 11 and 18. Tickets cost $13 for adults and $6 for children. Those wanting more information can visit sobtheatre.org.