Opening Night: Annie at the Walnut Street Theatre

-Brenda Hillegas
(Cover image: Paul Schoeffler, Tahlia Ellie, and Rebecca Robbins. Photos by Mark Garvin.)

America’s oldest theatre, right here in Philadelphia, is continuing it’s 209th season with one of America’s most beloved musicals. The Tony-Award winning Annie (Best Musical) invites you to come meet the title character along with, her friends, Mr. Warbucks, and of course her dog Sandy. They are all until January 7th and this is the perfect show to bring your friends and family (of all ages!) to this holiday season.

You all know the story. Based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, the musical follows Annie herself (perfectly played in last night’s performance by Tahlia Ellie) and the adventures surrounding her quest to find the parents who left her in the hands of evil Miss Hannigan and the New York City orphanage eleven years ago. She makes friends along the way, including President Roosevelt himself, billionaire Oliver Warbucks and his kind assistant Grace.

Fans of the Walnut Street Theatre will also recognize other cast members from their previous works at the venue. Mary Martello plays Miss Hannigan (Walnut performances include Forum, 9 to 5Arsenic and Old Lace). Paul Schoeffler as Daddy Warbucks is back after performing in Broadway’s revival of Sunset Boulevard. Walnut credits include South Pacific, 9 to 5, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Rebecca Robbins as Grace has recently been seen at Walnut’s Independence Studio on 3 as the title role in Souvenir, A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins.

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Sandy, played by Sunny, is of course the most charming cast member of them all! The seven-year-old terrier mix was the star of 2014’s Annie’s Search for Sandy on NBC and was rescued in Texas by animal trainer Bill Berloni. Berloni is known for finding and training a long line of “Sandy” dogs for various performances of Annie. Sunny has been on tour with the show since 2014. Be sure to check out Walnut Street Theatre’s Instagram for lots of Sunny photos!

Tahlia Ellie will share the role of Annie with Jenna Seasholtz (from Coopersburg, PA). The rest of the children in the cast will also alternate, with two young actors in each role throughout the show’s tour.

Director Glenn Casale is no stranger to the Walnut Street Theatre. He’s back after taking on last year’s production of Wizard of Oz. Casale brought this incredible performance to life with the help of choreographer Michelle Gaudette (previous work at the theatre includes South Pacific, Music Man, In the Heights, Fiddler on the Roof), and music/vocal director John Daniels (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Buddy Holly Story and South Pacific).

Annie is filled with pure love. This musical shows the importance of sticking up for and taking care of one another, and that sometimes you have to make your own family in life. With a holiday backdrop to this classic tale, there’s no better time to grab your loved ones and bring them to see Annie here in our city.

Tickets range from $20-$97 and can be purchased here.

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