By Annie Ellis
Everyone’s favorite little red-haired orphan and her adorable dog, Sandy, are heading to the Bama Theatre stage June 2-4, when The Actor’s Charitable Theatre (ACT) presents the musical “Annie.”
“Annie” is based on Harold Gray’s popular comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” which premiered in the 1920s in the New York Daily News, becoming one of the most widely-read strips in the ‘30s and ‘40s. The original 1977 Broadway production of “Annie” ran at the Alvin Theatre (now renamed the Neil Simon Theatre) for 2,377 performances for nearly six years and won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Choreography.
Although it’s set in 1933 New York City during the Great Depression, “Annie” is full of joy and laughter. Ever-optimistic Annie is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage that is run by the cruel Miss Hannigan. When Annie’s luck turns around with an invitation to spend the holidays with cranky billionaire Oliver Warbucks, she warms his heart. Warbucks offers a reward to anyone who can prove they are Annie’s parents, and Miss Hannigan, partnering with her con artist brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily, attempt to strike it rich with this unique situation. But in the end, Annie finds the family she always dreamed of with Daddy Warbucks, his secretary Grace Farrell, and her lovable pooch, Sandy.
The rags-to riches story of “Annie” is well-known – it has been translated into 28 languages, played in 34 different countries, and has been made into three movies (in 1982, 1999, and 2014). At least a dozen members of The ACT’s “Annie” cast and crew have been involved with past shows of “Annie.”
So, how does The ACT plan to make this “Annie” fresh and new?
“Although cheesy at times, it is a beautiful story,” said Joey Lay, The ACT’s artistic director, who has already been a part of four versions of “Annie” in his theater career. “I am going simplistic with the set to allow the beauty of the story to come through. And our show will feature innovative, new choreography that is unique to this production.”
According to choreographer Benji Stockton, who spent ten years performing in Atlanta with The Aurora Theatre and with Six Flags Over Georgia, it’s important to make things updated and tell the same story but in a fresh, new way.
“People either know the 1982 movie version, one of the many Broadway revivals (each a bit different in their own unique, creative way), the 1999 movie, or the 2014 movie (again, each one different),” Stockton said. “I wanted to give people something that they have not seen before, as far as choreography is concerned. I do give respectable nods to the original 1977 Broadway show, 1982 movie, 2012 revival, and even the 2014 movie version.”
Playing the title role of Annie is Caroline Gibson, a sixth grader at Echols Middle School, who has appeared in 12 other local theater productions since the age of eight. In addition to acting on stage, Caroline plays the piano, guitar, and ukulele, and is an accomplished vocalist who has competed in singing competitions across the Southeast.
Sandy, the stray mutt who becomes Annie’s faithful friend, will be played by Pharaoh, a four-year-old terrier mix, who, like Sandy, has her own successful adoption story: two years ago, she was adopted from the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter.
If You Go:
Friday, June 2, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 3, 2:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 4, 2:00 p.m.
Ticket prices: Adult $20, Senior $18, Student $16, Kids $12
To order tickets: TheACT.info or (205)393-2800; Enter this special discount code when you order online to receive $2 off each ticket: Dcity