Broadway in Norfolk at Chrysler Hall kicks off the season with the most optimistic musical ever, Annie.
There will be three performances Friday, November 18 – 19. I don’t know about you, but I could use a giant dose of optimism right now.
Maybe that’s why the story of the little orphan girl, Annie, has lasted so long and in so many incarnations. Harold Gray first penned the comic strip Little Orphan Annie in 1924. Annie was a little girl with frizzy red hair and strange blank eyes in the comics, but she had grit. Annie’s mission was to right the wrongs and stick up for the underdog. The daily strip outlasted Gray’s death in 1968. There have been books, movies, and musicals ever since. The original Broadway production of Annie won the Tony for best musical in 1977 and ran for six years. There was a Broadway revival in 1997. It’s been playing around the world ever since.
Annie that’s coming to Norfolk is going to be special. Casey Prins, who will be playing Grace Farrell, Daddy Warbuck’s equally optimistic secretary, says that this production is going “back to it’s roots.” Martin Charnin, who wrote the lyrics for the original musical, is directing. Lisa Gennaro, whose dad Peter won the Tony in 1977 choreography, is the choreographer for this production. This Annie is going to be exactly like the Annie that won the Tony in 1977.
Casey Prins is feeling optimistic too. She grew up in community theater in Holland, Michigan. Holland is home to a huge tulip festival each year. Casey marched in the Tulip Festival parade and owns at least two pair of wooden shoes. Her mom is a singer, her brother plays multiple instruments and her dad runs the Community Theater. Casey played the part of Annie when she was in 7th grade.
Months before Casey graduated from Ball State with a degree in musical theater, she went to New York with a group from school to perform in a showcase. Three weeks after she graduated, she auditioned for Annie and got the part of Grace Farrell.
She may be a newbie to the “big” stage, but she has put in thousands of hours. She has the talent and the stamina. She performed 969 shows at Cedar Point, the Busch Gardens of Ohio, over two summers in college. She averaged 5 shows a day. Two shows on a Saturday are fine by her.
I spoke to her the other day, the afternoon she was going to perform Grace for the first time at the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago. She didn’t sound nervous at all. She will be touring with the company of Annie on a big bus throughout the United State until next May. The bus includes the 7 little girls who play Annie and the orphans, a parent for each girl, a schoolteacher and a schoolroom. The two dogs that play Sandy get their own bus. Casey says the little girls are so talented and “not one bit nervous.”
Casey is just excited. She loves the story of Annie.
“This is a story about love,” she said. “It is happy, uplifting and so optimistic. It appeals to all ages.”