THEATER | Curls or not, “Annie” charms at the Orpheum


Watching all of the little girls (and some boys) streaming into the Orpheum on Thursday night, there was no doubt what play was opening. Annie is at the theater for a four-show run.

Annie tells the story of a little girl living in an orphanage in New York City in the 1930s. She is invited to spend two weeks over Christmas with the fabulously wealthy Oliver Warbucks, in a stunt planned by Warbucks to improve his public image. Annie believes that her parents, who left her when she was born, and will be coming back for her. Warbucks falls in love with her, and vows to find her parents. He ends up rescuing her from scam artists who are assisted by the conniving Miss Hannigan, headmistress of the orphanage.

annie, a musical presented through february 14 at the orpheum theatre, 910 hennepin ave., minneapolis. for tickets ($18-$68) and information, see

Talking to a young girl who was sitting by me, I asked her if she had seen the 1982 film adaptation of the 1977 musical. Not only had she seen the movie, she owned it and loved it. This confirmed my suspicion that the majority of the audience grew up watching Annie the movie and may have never seen the musical on stage. They probably were as disoriented as I was when Annie came on stage with red hair that was straight and not curly—and then Miss Hannigan came out with a head of curls! I was certain the cast members had gotten their notes mixed up. For the last scene, however, Annie did finally appear in curls and her signature red dress.

Also disconcerting was the fact that some of the songs from the movie (“Dumb Dog,” “Let’s Go To the Movies”) weren’t in the stage production, and there are songs in the musical that did not appear in the movie. Most notable among the latter songs is “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” sung by a group of hobos and tramps living in a Hooverville (a shanty town named after President Hoover, who they felt was responsible for their homelessness).

After reorientating myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. As Annie, Madison Kerth has a wonderfully strong voice and it was a pleasure listening to her belt out her songs—though she seemed to be concentrating so hard on the choreography that she sometimes forgot to smile and have fun. The other six young actresses portraying the orphans were all very good and work well as an ensemble. Their renditions of “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” are energetic and entertaining. Seven-year-old Mackenzie Aladjem (Molly) was particularly impressive.

As part of a “Kids’ Night” promotion, young theatergoers at the Orpheum on Thursday night received gift bags with toys and coupons from local businesses looking to burnish their images, Daddy Warbucks style, by demonstrating largesse to children. Photo by Mark Vancleave, courtesy Hennepin Theatre Trust.

Miss Hannigan (Lynn Andrews) is a woman you love to hate: a lovelorn, drunken, whistle-blowing drill sergeant who runs the orphanage and hates those little girls. David Barton was convincing as “Daddy” Warbucks, the money-loving billionaire surprised at finding himself falling in love with Little Orphan Annie.

The sets were cleverly designed and moved seamlessly from the orphanage to the shanty town under the Brooklyn Bridge to the Fifth Avenue mansion. Though this is a new production, I was pleased at how familiar it felt. My kids loved the movie Annie when they were growing up, and it is good to know that this story has been passed down to another generation of young theatergoers and movie-watchers.

Jean Gabler ( is program manager for undergraduate business programs at the University of St. Thomas.