Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

“Annie” | July 23 – 31


Andrea McArdle stars as Miss Hannigan

Broadway’s original Little Orphan Annie, Andrea McArdle, will star as Miss Hannigan, the bad-to-the-bone, whiskey-swilling mistress of the New York Municipal Orphanage, in North Carolina Theatre‘sgala production of ANNIE, which co-stars Robert Newman as billionaire munitions manufacturer Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. Newman is best known for playing bad boy Joshua Lewis on the CBS television daytime soap opera “Guiding Light” (1981-84, 1986-91, and 1993-2009).

“It was an exciting challenge to help create a brand-new Hannigan with Andrea McArdle,” declares North Carolina Theatre artistic director Casey Hushion. “Dorothy Loudon [of the original Broadway cast] left such an indelible impression in the role — especially for Andrea having witnessed it first-hand every night, that our task was to break free of that and find an original and unique Hannigan that belonged to Andrea.”

Hushion, who served as the assistant director of the Broadway, West End, and the National Tour productions of THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, which won five 2006 Tony Awards®, says, “The other challenge [in staging a new production of ANNIE for the 21st century] is the size and scope of a show like this — to be rehearsed and created in such a short period of time. The children, the dog — there are so many unusual components to putting an ANNIE together and we do in about 10 days!”

The NCT cast of ANNIE also includes 14-year-old Raleigh teen English Bernhardt as the plucky title character; Christy Morton as Warbucks’ devoted secretary Grace Farrell, who has a major-league crush on her boss; Joey Calveri as Miss Hannigan’s ne’er-do-well brother, Rooster, a bunko artist who foolishly targets Warbucks for his next scam; Dana Zihlman Harshaw as Rooster’s round-heeled girlfriend and not-so-bright partner in crime Lily St. Regis; Eric Michael Gillett as newly inaugurated President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Brian Michael Hoffman as FDR’s potty-mouthed Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes; Tom Treadwell as Warbucks’ unflappable butler Drake; and Laurel Harris as a Star to Be (who contributes a sparkling solo during the “N.Y.C.” production number).

“Annie is a spunky Depression-era orphan determined to find her parents, who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan,” notes director Casey Hushion. “In adventure after fun-filled adventure, Annie foils Miss Hannigan’s evil machinations, befriends President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and finds a new family and home in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary Grace Farrell, and a lovable mutt named Sandy.”

Hushion recalls, “I remember first seeing the [1982] film of ANNIE. My father took me as a special night out, and I remember it left my giddy and breathless.”

Later, she says, “I played Annie as a young girl in community theater on Long Island, I played a maid in another production later, and I was the assistant director of a production at the Papermill Playhouse years ago.”

Originally produced by the Goodspeed Opera House of East Haddam, CT, the perennially popular musical features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and a book by Thomas Meehan, based on the newspaper comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray (1894-1968), which first ran on Aug. 5, 1924 in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

ANNIE made its Broadway debut, directed by Martin Charnin and choreographed by Peter Gennaro, on April 21, 1977 at the Alvin Theatre; later transferred to the ANTA Playhouse, then the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, and finally the Uris Theatre; and racked up a combined total of 2,377 performances before closing on Jan. 2, 1983. The show’s original cast included Andrea McArdle as Annie, Reid Shelton as Daddy Warbucks, Dorothy Loudon as Miss Hannigan, Robert Fitch as Rooster Hannigan, Sandy Faison as Grace Farrell, and Barbara Erwin as Lily St. Regis. ANNIE won the 1977 Tony Awards® for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Actress in a Musical (Dorothy Loudon), Best Scenic Design (David Mitchell), and Best Costume Design (Theoni V. Aldredge), plus the 1977 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical.

The 1982 motion-picture version of ANNIE, directed by John Huston from a screenplay by Carol Sobieski, starred Aileen Quinn as Annie, Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks, Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, Tim Curry as Rooster Hannigan, Ann Reinking as Grace Farrell, and Bernadette Peters as Lily St. Regis. The film received two 1983 Academy Award nominations: for Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score (Ralph Burns) and for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Dale Hennesy and Marvin March).

“ANNIE is one of the great classics of musical theater,” claims director Casey Hushion. “I respect and admire the show so very much. It is so rich; the story is so honest and true; the musical is so undeniable. I love the challenge of taking a familiar classic and trying to figure out how to breathe new life into it and how to keep the heart of the story fresh and real.”

A New York University graduate, Casey Hushion has previously directed more than a dozen show’s for the Raleigh-based regional theater, including THE KING AND I (2004), starring Lou Diamond Phillips, and JEKYLL & HYDE (2004), starring Sebastian Bach; JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (2005); THE WIZARD OF OZ (2006); CHESS (2007); and Yeston and Kopit’s PHANTOM (2008).

In addition to director Casey Hushion, the North Carolina Theatre creative team for ANNIE includes producer Carolee Baxter; assistant director Heather Patterson King; choreographer Vince Pesce, musical director Edward G. Robinson; technical director Bill Yates, Jr.; lighting designer Craig Stelzenmuller; costume designer Ann M. Bruskiewitz; properties manager Laurie Johnson; sound designerShannon Slaton; and stage manager William Alan Coats.

The show’s scenery was originally designed by Kenneth Foy for Atlanta’s Theater of the Stars and built by Pittsburgh CLO’s Construction Center for the Arts. Costumes were also provided by Costume World Theatrical of Deerfield Beach, FL; and the show’s animal performers were trained by William Berloni Theatrical Animals, Inc.

Director Casey Hushion says, “The set contains some of the classic cartoonish ANNIE elements, while also creating an authentic true-to-life feel. It was important to me that our version felt honest and real. The set itself is gorgeous, and I like how it illustrates the disparity between the classes.”

She adds, “[In] our lighting design[, w]e are also aspiring to capture a real authenticity — less modern lighting and more classic musical theater. Hard edged spot lights, even vaudevillian when appropriate.

“This costume design in remarkably broad and versatile,” Hushion explains. “We have the wealthiest tycoon in the nation and his staff alongside scruffy ragamuffin orphans. All the classic costumes are represented, of course — the iconic red Annie dress, Warbucks in his elegant tuxedo.”

Moreover, says director Casey Hushion, “We have the original Annie, Andrea McArdle, starring as Hannigan and Robert Newman, known as Josh from ‘Guiding Light,’ starring as Warbucks. The children are remarkably talented and have all been trained professionally by the best of the best, right here at the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory.”

SECOND OPINION: July 18th Raleigh, NC NEWS & OBSERVER preview:

The North Carolina Theatre presents ANNIEstarring Andrea McArdle as Miss Hannigan, at 7 p.m. July 23 Target Student Preview Night, 8 p.m. July 24, 2 p.m. July 25, 8 p.m. July 27-30, 2 and 8 p.m. July 31, and 2 and 7 2 p.m. August 1 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.


The Musical: (Music Theatre International), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Internet Movie Database).

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