Life can serve up an awful lot of downers. It takes more than a stiff upper lip to tread the waves of ill fortune. It takes sheer optimism. Annie the musical is about optimism in spite of hard times.
National Theatre’s Annie is directed by Jenn Thompson who appeared in the original Broadway run as Pepper. The musical has a renowned book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Martin Charnin.
Annie is based on the 1924 comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray. The poem “Little Orphan Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley inspired the comic. The show takes place in December 1933. It follows New York City orphan Annie Bennet’s quest to find her birth parents. Along the way, billionaire and titan of industry Oliver Warbucks adopts her.
The show has spectacular production values. The impressive sets included an orphanage, a skid-row “Hooverville,” and Warbucks’ elegant mansion. Scenic Designer Wilson Chin earned his keep. Chin made great use of flown set pieces and images printed on scrims. I liked the reproductions of famous paintings like the “Mona Lisa.”
Costume Designer Alejo Vietti put Oliver Warbucks in classy double-breasted suits. I also liked the uniforms of Warbucks’ wait staff.
The music and the dance moves worked well together. Music Director Jennifer Christina and Music Supervisor Matthew Smedal made the tunes singable. Patricia Wilcox and Dance Captain Callie Alexa made the choreography creative and engaging.
Rainey Treviño gave an engaging performance as Annie, elevating all her scenes. She stood out in the show’s signature tune, “Tomorrow.” She brought much optimism and hope to “Tomorrow.” Consider the lyrics:
The sun’ll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
There’ll be sun!
What can I say about Stefanie Londino, who played orphanage administrator Miss Hannigan? She was terrific, and the audience loved to hate her character. She spat out lines like “I hate that girl! [Annie].” She sang fabulously in “Little Girls.” Londino’s swagger may be because she is the lead singer in the rock band West Side Waltz.
Christopher Swan was avuncular as Oliver Warbucks. Warbucks could get phone calls from the president and Ghandi and had the clout to put them on hold. I liked his singing in “Something Was Missing” and “New Deal for Christmas.” Swan was on the first national tour of A Christmas Story: The Musical.
“It’s a Hard Knock Life” is the best tune in the show. As the orphans cleaned and scrubbed the orphanage, it came to life. The Orphans were played with panache by Jade Smith as Molly, Avery Hope as Pepper, Arianna Guller as Duffy, Savannah Austin as July, Kylie Noelle Patterson as Tessie, and Addie Jaymes as Kate. The Orphans also wowed the house with “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.”
Jerquintez A. Gipson was the show’s “de-versitile” utility man. He played Lt. Ward, Fred McCraken, FDR’s Secretary of the Interior Ickes, and Brandeis. I loved his scene as stern cop Lt. Ward with Treviño/Annie and her dog. In other roles, he brought empathy.
The history buff in me loved Mark Woodard as American President FDR. Woodard brought a genteel gentlemanliness to his role. In an engaging scene, FDR and Warbucks discussed solutions to the Great Depression.
Jeffrey T. Kelly portrayed Rooster Hannigan, Miss Hannigan’s brother, with sliminess. Rooster came up with a dirty scheme to take advantage of Annie and of Warbucks’ generosity.
Julia Nicole Hunter was memorable as Warbucks’ secretary, Grace Farrell. Her performance was as crisp and efficient as her character. She displayed her pipes in “You Won’t Be an Orphan for Long.” She’s a veteran of Annie and In the Heights.
Ryan Mulvaney had a short but memorable scene with Treviño’s Annie as an apple seller. His scene showed the desperation of life during the Great Depression.
Annie’s dog Sandy (played by Seamus) was well trained by Birds & Animals Unlimited, Inc. Trevino had good chemistry with Seamus. I give that dog kudos.
Director Thompson has made Annie yet another engaging hit for the National Theatre. This family-friendly classic, complete with a Christmas Day scene, is well worth seeing.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 30 minutes with a 20-minute intermission.
Annie plays through January 28, 2023, at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington. Tickets ($59–$109) are available online or by calling the box office at (202) 628-6161, Monday through Friday 12 pm to 6 pm.
Cast and creative credits for the national tour of Annie can be found here.
COVID Safety: Masks are strongly recommended but not required for all ticket holders. For full COVID protocol, go here.
Based on the comic “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray
Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Rainier (Rainey) Treviño: as Annie
Stefanie Londino: as Miss Hannigan
Jerquintez A. Gipson: as Lt. Ward
Julia Nicole Hunter: as Grace Farrell
Christopher Swan: as Oliver Warbucks
Jeffrey T. Kelly: as Rooster Hannigan
Mark Woodard: as FDR
Jade Smith: as Molly
Avery Hope: as Pepper
Arianna Guller: as Duffy
Savannah Austin: as July
Kylie Noelle Patterson: as Tessie
Addie Jaymes: as Kate
Chance K. Ingalls: as Bundles McCloskey
Ryan Mulvaney: as Apple Seller
Kaleb Jenkins: as Assistant Dog Catcher
Seamus/Chloe: as Sandy
Jaelle Laguerre: as Sophie the Kettle
Tony Mowatt: as Drake
Savannah Fisher: as Mrs. Greer
Kaylie Mae Wallace: as Cecile
Caroline Glazier: as Annette
Samantha Stevens: as Lily
Chance K. Ingalls: as Morganthau
Brooke Oliva Gato: Compan
Trent Tyson: Additional Roles
Director: Jenn Thompson
Choreographer: Patricia Wilcox
Music Director: Jennifer Christin
Music Supervision: Matthew Smeda
Scenic Design: Wilson Chin
Dance Captain: Callie Alexa
Assistant Dance Captain: Trent Tyson
Costume Designer: Alejo Vietti
Animal Training: Birds & Animals Unlimited, Inc.
Hair and Wig Design: Ashley Rae Callahan