By Tara Bennett
The curtain will rise once more for a beloved classic musical as “Annie” hits the stage at the Theatre Baton Rouge starting this Saturday.
Directed by Jenny Ballard, “Annie” will run from June 6-22 with show times at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as well as 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“‘Annie’ has always been on my bucket list of plays to direct,” said Ballard, who also dreams of directing “Hamlet” one day. “I think it’s such a hopeful, wonderful, positive play about people choosing to believe the best on a daily basis.”
Annie’s first incarnation was in the popular comic strip by Harold Gray known as “Little Orphan Annie.” In 1977 it opened as a Broadway musical with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and the book by Thomas Meehan. The musical ran for nearly six years on Broadway, setting a record for the Neil Simon Theatre. It spawned numerous productions in many countries, as well as national tours, and won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
“I think some of the songs that are in the play are beautiful and very emotional and really capture the essence of the characters,” said Ballard. “They’re really moving.”
Abused by the cruel orphanage matron Miss Hannigan, Annie, a spunky, redheaded orphan, decides to run away and find her parents. After eventually managing to escape the orphanage, she is caught and sent back by Officer Ward of the New York Police Department. Annie’s luck improves when Billionaire Oliver Warbucks decides to invite an orphan over to his house for Christmas and chooses Annie. The two quickly hit it off and he agrees to help Annie find her parents by putting up a $50,000 reward. Miss Hannigan’s brother, Rooster, and his girlfriend, Lily, pretend to be Annie’s parents by using information provided by Miss Hannigan.
“There’s a really nice journey that happens for all of the characters,” said Ballard. “And you can see how they change and grow and become better people.”
The leads in the show will be played by 12-year-old Molly Beth Blanchard as Annie and Chip Davis who portrays the role of Warbucks.
“They have really developed a lovely chemistry and you really buy their relationship,” said Ballard.
Blanchard was picked out of more than 100 girls who were vying for the role of Annie.
“I think she is like Annie in a lot of ways,” said Ballard. “She’s incredibly grown up 12-year-old, and I always felt that Annie is grown up for her age because she always had to be the adult in the situation. She’s very smart, she’s very responsible and she’s very feisty. She’s also incredibly kind and is constantly building up people around her. I’ve never once seen her take away from someone else’s moment. I’ve never once seen her brag or be anything but unbelievably modest. She always seems to make people feel better, which is one of Annie’s gifts.”
Ballard’s version of “Annie” will remain true to the original musical set during the Great Depression and will feature all of the well-known songs, including “Tomorrow” and “It’s A Hard-Knock Life.”
Admission will be $28 for individuals, $25 for groups of 10 or more and $16 for student advance tickets. Tickets may be reserved by calling the box office at Theatre Baton Rouge at 225-924-6496.