Little Orphan Annie was a staple of newspaper comic strips during the time of The Great Depression in the 1930s. She became a major cultural figure that fought for fairness and justice and embodied the can-do spirit of America.
She survives through the beloved 1976 musical “Annie” which is currently being presented at the Aronoff Center for the Arts as part of Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati presented by TriHealth. “Annie” tells the story of its hero Annie (Ellie Pulsifer) as she tries to find her parents while avoiding the wrath of the head of her orphanage Miss Hannigan (Stephanie Londino) and growing increasingly fond of billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks (Christopher Swan).
Pulsifer beautifully captures the heart and soul of Annie. She is equal parts spunk, determination, and crafty charm with a satisfying singing voice belting out wonderful renditions of iconic songs “Maybe” and “Tomorrow.” A highlight of her performance was her acting. She really delivers an emotionally true performance. She is compelling as she learns the fate of her parents and I was struck by the total authenticity of the scene which could play as overtly dramatic. Pulsifer plays that scene just right and she lured me into the emotions of the scene.
Stephanie Londino is a standout as Miss Hannigan, who captures the spirit of this scheming, conniving, drunken villain to perfection. Londino balancing the humor of Miss Hannigan with an in-your-face New York attitude. I particularly love watching her comedic routines because she is very funny. The scenes where she is listening to radio soap operas are priceless. Londino also is a strong singer in such songs as “Little Girls” and “Easy Street.”
Christopher Swan is also a standout as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. While the role could be forgettable, Swan sculpts out a memorable nuanced performance that alternates between bellow and bluster and softness and vulnerability. There is one point in the musical where Warbucks gets shot down emotionally and Swan beautifully depicts being emotionally crushed. I really could emphasize with his plight. Added to his strong singing and chemistry with his co-star Pulsifer, Christopher Swan becomes the embodiment of Daddy Warbucks.
Some of the scenic pieces that Scenic Designer Wilson Chin created are compelling. They bespoke the urban nature of 1930s New York City which is equal parts glitz and grittiness. I particularly love the metal ironwork archway spanning the stage with the initials NYC at its center. It feels like the audience is passing through an urban bridge to come into the city. It is a subtle and very nice touch.
”Annie” was one of those shows that I always wanted to see in a professional production and this one does not disappoint. It has some amazing acting and singing, wonderful songs by Strouse and Charmin (they are much more compelling than what I had remembered seeing in the film version), and an emotionally compelling story of a young lady trying to find her parents and, by extension, her identity.
This show satisfies on an emotional and musical theater level. It is also child-friendly, meaning that the whole family can find something to like within this musical. Unfortunately, “Annie” is only running for a single week, February 7 through 12, 2022. For ticket information, click onto the following link.