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On Dec. 9-14, DPAC Will Host a New Tour of “Annie,” Directed by the Musical’s Lyricist Martin Charnin

Issie Swickle as Annie sings "Tomorrow" to Sunny as her beloved mutt Sandy (photo by Joan Marcus)

Issie Swickle as Annie sings “Tomorrow” to Sunny as her beloved mutt Sandy (photo by Joan Marcus)

Leapin’ Lizards! Annie is back, with lyricist and original Broadway director Martin Charnin at the helm of a new-and-improved production of this perennially popular musical, based on the syndicated comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” (1924-2010), which was created by cartoonist Harold Gray (1894–1968). The Durham Performing Arts Center will host Gaithersburg, MD-based Troika Entertainment, LLC’s 2014-15 national tour on Dec. 9-14 in its 2,700-seat, state-of-the-art theater in the American Tobacco Historic District of the Bull City.

“Martin Charnin wanted to return Annie to its roots [and emphasize the] heart and indomitable spirit that the original show possessed,” explains Gilgamesh Taggett, who plays the plucky title character’s unlikely benefactor, crusty conservative Republican billionaire munitions manufacturer Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. Taggett adds, “The song ‘N.Y.C.’ [sung by Hannah Slabaugh as the Star to Be] is much more intimate. When Grace and Annie and Warbucks go out onto the streets of New York City together, there’s more of a hint of the ‘family’ that begins to form by the end of the show….

“At its core,” Taggett says, “Annie still has its original heart and its original soul. It’s a show about love and hope.”

Gilgamesh Taggett as Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks and Issie Swickle as Annie sing "I Don't Need Anything But You" cheek to cheek (photo by Joan Marcus)

Gilgamesh Taggett as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks and Issie Swickle as Annie sing “I Don’t Need Anything But You” cheek to cheek in front of the grand stairway at his Fifth Avenue mansion (photo by Joan Marcus)

In addition to Gilgamesh Taggett as Daddy Warbucks, this tour stars nine-year-old Issie Swickle as Annie; and Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan, the bad-to-the-bone, whiskey-guzzling mistress of the New York Municipal Orphanage who makes Annie’s life miserable. This traveling production also stars Ashley Edler as Warbucks’ devoted secretary Grace Farrell; Garrett Deagon as Miss Hannigan’s ne’er-do-well bunko artist brother Rooster; Lucy Werner as Rooster’s roundheeled, not-so-bright partner in crime Lily St. Regis; Allan Ray Baker as newly inaugurated Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and Sunny as Annie’s beloved mutt Sandy.

This latest-and-greatest version of Annie still features the 1977 Tony Award®-winning Best Original Score by Charles Strouse and book by New Yorker writer and 1977 Best Book of a Musical Tony winner Thomas Meehan. It showcases all of the gems in Strouse’s and Martin Charnin’s splendid score, including “Maybe,” “It’s The Hard Knock Life,” “Tomorrow,” “Little Girls,” “N.Y.C.,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” “A New Deal for Christmas,” and more.

Tour choreographer Liza Gennaro, who is the daughter of the show’s original choreographer, Peter Gennaro, incorporates some of the dance routines for which he won the 1977 Tony for Best Choreography into her choreography. The tour’s creative team also includes scenic designer Beowulf Boritt; lighting designer Ken Billington; costume designer Suzy Benzinger; sound designer Peter Hylenski; animal trainer William Berloni; and production stage manager Donavan Dolan. The show also features music supervision and additional arrangements by Keith Levenson and hair, wigs, and design by Campbell Young Associates.

Gilgamesh Taggett is no stranger to the role of Daddy Warbucks. For the past two Christmases, he has played the part in Annie at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, OH. But this year, the national tour of Annie will take a two-week break at Christmastime. (“It will feel strange not being onstage in this show at Christmas,” Taggett says.)

Working with 80-year-old writer, lyricist, and director Martin Charnin has been a real treat, Taggett says. “He’s a genuinely inspired man who says what he thinks and expects the very best out of you. It’s wonderful to know that I’ve not only been able to work with a true genius, but that I’ve gained a new friend.”

"Easy Street" is where Lucy Werner (left) as Lily St. Regis, Garrett Deagon as Rooster Hannigan, and Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan hope their big con will land them (photo by Joan Marcus)

“Easy Street” is where Lucy Werner (left) as Lily St. Regis, Garrett Deagon as Rooster Hannigan, and Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan hope that their big con will land them (photo by Joan Marcus)

Having memorized his role for two previous productions, Taggett is acutely aware of changes in the script for this tour. “There were a lot of changes made; they were small but necessary,” he says. “They really help focus the geography of the script.

“It was a challenge to me, because I had the script in my head; but I think these changes are really going to enrich the audience’s experience,” says Taggett.

Taggett’s task is not so much the reimagining of the role of Daddy Warbucks, he says, but “[A] search for the honesty and truth of the character…. It’s easy to make Oliver Warbucks a narrowly focused man who is gruff and insensitive and yells at everyone around him. But that’s not who he is. He’s just a hyper-focused man who’s focused on his one goal, which is to make money. He thinks that he has everything until he finds the one thing that he’s always been missing, and he didn’t even know it. He was missing love,” says Taggett.

Originally produced in August 1976 by the Goodspeed Opera House of East Haddam, CT, Annie is set in Dec. 11-25, 1933 in New York City, during the Great Depression. Annie made its Broadway debut, directed by lyricist 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 seven 1977 Tony Awards, including the Tonys for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Choreography, plus the 1977 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical.

Gilgamesh Taggett grew up in a small Michigan farming community. Sometime during his Wonder Years, he says, he played a troll under a bridge in Billy Goats Gruff and, instantly, knew that he wanted to be an actor when he grew up.

“My education [in theater] came from staying on the stage, reading books about it, and taking master classes,” says Taggett. He adds, “The lab was the stage itself. You learn from your director, you learn from your choreographer, and you learn from observing other actors.”

Annie's irrepressible high spirits inspire Allan Ray Baker as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (second from right) to exhort his cabinet to "Sing like Annie!" (photo by Joan Marcus)

Annie’s irrepressible high spirits inspire Allan Ray Baker as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (second from right) to exhort his cabinet and guests to “Sing like Annie!” (photo by Joan Marcus)

Taggett studied theology and philosophy at Saginaw Valley State University in University Center, MI; but he says he left school to support his “theater habit.” (“I was a terrible student, but I was a voracious reader,” he confesses.)

On stage, Gilgamesh Taggett looks like a big, big, bullet-headed man, with a shaved head, bulldog jowls, and a barrel chest. But the 45-year-old actor says he’s just 6′ tall and weighs just 230 lbs.

“I’m a 45-year-old ‘overnight success,'” he quips. “I’ve been acting a long time in semi-professional productions and smaller shows, but this is my first national tour…. My advice to younger actors is, ‘Never give up. You never know when that tap on the shoulder is going to come….’

“There are great men who have played [Oliver Warbucks] onstage and in the movies,” says Taggett. “That was their performance; that was the truth that they found in the character. That’s my job as well. If I do it well, the character will resonate with the audience. I think Oliver Warbucks is a character that should — and I hope does — connect with some men who need to remember what life is all about.”

Gilgamesh Taggett says, “I don’t understand why people would not want to see Annie, especially in this political climate and at this time. It’s like being cold and alone in the street and refusing a blanket and a hot meal.”

SECOND OPINION: Dec. 7th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks:; Dec. 4th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: (Note: You must register to read this article); Nov. 28th Raleigh, NC Raleigh interview with Gilgamesh Taggett, conducted by Jeffrey Karasarides:; and Aug. 12th New York, NY preview by Andrew Gans:

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents ANNIE at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9-11, 8 p.m. Dec. 12, 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 13, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $40.90-$161.57 (including fees). Click here for “special offers.”


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and


TOUR:,, and







NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10th, performance.


“Little Orphan Annie” (comic strip, 1924-2010): (The Official “Little Orphan Annie” Home Page) and (Wikipedia).

Harold Gray (cartoonist, 1894–1968): (Internet Broadway Database) and (Wikipedia).

Annie (1977 Broadway and 1978 West End musical): (official website), (Music Theatre International), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Charles Strouse (music): (official website), (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Martin Charnin (lyrics and original Broadway and 2014 tour director): (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Thomas Meehan (book): (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Gilgamesh Taggett (actor who plays Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks): (official website), (his blog), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)


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