Westchester Broadway Theatre proudly presents its 201st production with “Annie”; what a celebration!
Opening night started with the Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship awarded to Nicolas Tabio, a senior from Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. The scholarship was awarded to the valedictorian who is a member of the National Honor Society. Well-deserved by this student, he has been involved with the dramatic arts as an actor, director and co-founder of Crusader Productions, an independent student-run theatre company.
The scholarship is given annually to a Stepinac High School senior that has excelled in the theater arts programs. Fitzsimmons was a graduate of the high school who died suddenly at the age of 37 in March 1992. He was the public relations director of the Westchester Broadway Theatre, WBT, as well as a performer, producer, writer and director.
The celebration continued with the announcement of a special guest in the audience; Margaret Hosier, who played Annie in the first production of the show in 1983 at WBT.
Most people know of the American classic comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” that debuted in 1924, the true inspiration for “Annie.” Sometimes the story behind the scenes is just as exciting as the tale on stage. Martin Charnin bought a coffee table book based on the comic strip and fell in love with the character. He shared his idea with Charles Strouse, a composer, and Thomas Meehan, a writer, both successful in their own right. It took some convincing but all came together to create the musical.
The musical was set in New York during the FDR presidency and set the stage in the Great Depression. New York City was facing a financial crisis, and the writers wanted to create a musical that is based on love and family. Annie’s quest to find her missing father and mother during these hard times seemed like the perfect setting to create a story of hope, promise and optimism, especially coming from a child.
Peyton Ella plays spunky Annie with the acting chops and voice that leads you to truly believe the sun will come out tomorrow! Her ray of sunshine is Daddy Warbucks, played by Michael DeVries. Grace Farrell is the beautiful soul in the triangle of hope, played by Celeste Hudson.
A story always needs a good villain, and no one does it better than Susann Fletcher as Miss Hannigan, the head of the orphanage. She’s loud and mean, drinks a lot, slurs her words and attempts to be nice when the right people come around. Her accomplices Rooster, Miss Hannigan’s brother, and his partner, Lily St. Regis, are played effortlessly by Adam Roberts and Aubrey Sinn. The smooth talking Roberts has a comical, animated way of moving on stage as he tries to con his way into a big reward. The chemistry between the three is devilishly fun to watch!
John-Charles Kelly as Franklin D. Roosevelt is as presidential as you get. He handles worldly issue, his cabinet and still has time to sing with Annie.
Let’s not forget the other feisty orphans that come equipped with dirty knees, messy hair and big attitudes: Anika Bobra, Haylie Shea Christiano, Tahilia Ellie, Ruby Griffin, Maureen Henshaw, Nora Kennedy, Molly Lyons, Sasha Murray, Lucy Neureuther, Ella Stanley, Lauren Sun, Gabriella Uhl, and alternating as Annie is Kaylin Hedges. Sandy, Annie’s dog, is smartly played by Sunny, a terrier mix. Sunny was rescued in 2012 and trained by Bill Berloni. Sunny stayed with the show on Broadway until 2014 and has been out with the national tour ever since.
It takes a big cast to create a show with personality and heart, other talents include: Robert Abdoo as associate director/choreographer; Kelly Black; Laura Cable; Joseph Cullinane; Jesse Lynn Harte; Carl Hulden; Ryan Alexander Jacobs; Kelsey Self; Rochelle Smith; Roger Preston Smith; and Billy Clark Taylor. Director/choreographer by Mary Jane Houdina; musical director by William Stanley; set design by Andrew Gmoser; and sound design by Mark Zuckerman.
An idea that started from a comic strip about a red-headed girl lead to a Broadway musical, winning seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, and eventually became a motion picture in 1982, “Annie” has stood the test of time. The story of hope, promise, optimism, and of course, the sun, “Annie” is a show for everyone!
This Bill Stutler and Bob Funking production of “Annie” is playing now through Sept. 10 at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. For additional information, please call 592-2222 or visit broadwaytheatre.com.