Just when we thought the trials and tribulations of Orphan Annie were over after she was adopted by billionaire Daddy Warbucks — along comes yet another crisis!
On Christmas morning 1933, Child Welfare Commissioner Harriet Doyle interrupts the family celebration to inform Daddy Warbucks that Annie’s adoption isn’t legal because he’s not married. He must marry within 60 days or Annie goes back to the orphanage.
“Annie Warbucks,” a sequel to the original “Annie” production, opened Friday at The Theatre in the Park.
“Everyone is familiar with Annie’s story,” said Chris McCoy, who directs “Annie Warbucks.” “But most don’t know what befell Annie after she was adopted. ‘Annie Warbucks’ brings back the same characters, including her dog, Sandy, with new music and a different plot.”
“This is the first Annie show I’ve had an opportunity to direct. It was the first musical I saw as a kid. I loved it,” McCoy said. “‘Annie Warbucks’ is great for the entire family.”
McCoy, who has directed in theaters at Seattle, Denver and San Diego, was scheduled to direct “Damn Yankees” at The Theatre in the Park in 2013. He left before it opened to be assistant director of a Broadway production, and Tim Bair, producing artistic director of The Theatre, stepped in to direct “Damn Yankees.”
Devyn Trondson, 14, a freshman at Shawnee Mission Northwest, portrays Annie. “Devyn’s wonderful in the role,” McCoy said. “She’s an amazing talent. She completely transforms the character.”
This is Devyn’s fourth show at The Theatre in the Park. She was in the Disney Double Feature in both “The Jungle Book” and “Sleeping Beauty” in 2012 and, after that, in “Children of Eden” and “Honk.” She also has performed professionally at the Spinning Tree Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre and the New Theatre.
“Annie is different from any character I’ve played. She’s pretty tough because of all she’s been through. I really like her. She’s fun,” said Devyn of Lenexa.
Devyn didn’t audition solely for “Annie Warbucks.” “I auditioned for all the shows this season,” she said. “I had callbacks for Annie and Baby Bear in ‘Shrek.’ They wanted me for Annie. I’m glad they did.”
“My favorite song is ‘Leave It to the Girls.’ I especially like the show’s final scene. There’s a real twist at the end,” she said.
David Stelting of Olathe has appeared in 27 productions at The Theatre in the Park, three of them as Daddy Warbucks in “Annie” and a fourth in “Annie Warbucks.”
“My first show was ‘Sound of Music’ as a teenager. That was many years and many pounds ago,” he added.
“I had to learn a new set of lines for ‘Annie Warbucks,’” he said with a laugh. “‘Annie Warbucks’ was the only show I auditioned for. I thought if I don’t get Warbucks I’ll just sit in the audience and watch,” he said.
“Devyn is great as Annie. When she sings ‘I Always Knew’ I tear up. I have five daughters, and father and daughter relationships are special,” Stelting explained.
Every Orphan Annie show has to have a villain. Annette Cook, also of Olathe, fills that role in “Annie Warbucks” as Harriet Doyle, commissioner of Child Welfare in New York City. “I guess I can be a villain if you put it that way,” she joked. “It’s fun to play a different kind of character. As Commissioner Doyle I get to yell at Warbucks.”
“My favorite songs are ‘Above the Law’ and ‘Leave It to the Girls,’” Cook said. “I’m not a great dancer but they’re being patient with me.”
Courtney Koval of Overland Park, plays Warbucks’ personal secretary, Grace Farrell, who Annie believes would be the perfect wife for him. Warbucks admits he cares for Grace but feels he’s too old for her. He doesn’t realize she would be more than happy to marry him.
Reed Uthe, a drama teacher at Lakewood Middle School in Overland Park, portrays President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Daddy Warbucks calls him for help when Annie goes missing.
Leawood City Councilman James Azeltine plays David Lillianthal, a politician who created the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The show feature eight families performing together: Annette and Emma Cook; Matt and Willa Walberg; Delilah and Josephine Pellow; Debbie and Katie Blinn; Pam and Tess Sollars; Jan and Emma Lord; Savanna and Collette Worthington; and James and Andrea Azeltime.
“Annie Warbucks” plays tonight and Sunday and again Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. in The Theatre in the Park, 7710 Renner Road, in Shawnee Mission Park.
The Theatre in the Park is partnering with the Johnson County Christmas Bureau to collect canned goods and clothing for the Bureau’s Holiday Shop during the run of “Annie Warbucks.” The Holiday Shop served 3,500 families and 707 nursing home residents in 2014. Donors receive a coupon for free popcorn.