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November 22, 2017
Amy Alipio
Olney Theatre Center
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD 20832
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Together at last: Annie and Olney Theatre Center. The beloved musical about a certain curly-haired orphan runs through December 31, making it a no-brainer for the whole family to attend as a holiday outing.

Some kids might be a little disappointed that this isn’t based on the updated 2014 film version starring Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Wallis (cough, like my five year old, cough cough). But other kids and adults might appreciate that Olney’s Annie goes back to the roots of the musical. This is a traditional take on the play, except for the use of non-traditional casting.

Annie at Olney Theatre

The setting is 1933 New York City, a time of the Marx Brothers and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but also an era of Hoovervilles and breadlines. A slideshow of black-and-white scenes starts off the show, providing real-life context to the music-filled fantasy that follows.

The play shines brightest whenever its orphan ensemble is on stage. They are a lively, in-your-face, tightly choreographed group of girls. Not to mention incredibly talented. They nail the opening number “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” which you seriously cannot stop humming for days after you’ve seen the show.

Vivian Poe played Annie during the performance my kids and I saw (Nicole Allison plays Annie during most performances), and she was lovely - with a beautiful clear voice and a genuine smile - and she’s a real pro as well. When her dog Sandy headed into the wings before his cue, Vivian just chased after him and brought him back on stage, never missing a beat and finishing off her song totally unruffled-looking. Everyone loves that there’s a dog in the show, but I’m sure it can make for unexpected moments for actors.

Annie at Olney Theatre

The orphans live in a foster home run by the hard-drinking Miss Hannigan. She doesn’t come off as over-the-top nasty as other Miss Hannigans I’ve seen. You feel a little sorry for her.

Annie escapes the home to look for her parents, who have left her in foster care with half of a silver locket and a note saying they would return to get her and restore the full locket. She visits a Hooverville shanty town, which she manages to transform with her positivity. But she is caught and returned to Miss Hannigan’s, only to have Grace Farrell, secretary to billionaire Oliver Warbucks, choose her to come live with Warbucks for two weeks for the holidays. Though he is gruff and grouchy, Warbucks is almost immediately taken with Annie, and vice versa. I know, none of this makes sense, but just go with it.

He wants to adopt her but she insists her real parents are out there somewhere. So he uses his considerable influence to help her in her search - including roping in President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In one of the funniest scenes, Annie showers positivity over his glum and beleaguered cabinet at the White House and soon has them all singing “Tomorrow.”

Annie at Olney Theatre

Warbucks also offers a sizeable reward, and this gets Miss Hannigan’s conman brother Rooster scheming. He and his girlfriend pose as Annie’s parents so they can claim the money. Only they know about the silver locket.

But the truth is revealed, the New Deal is launched, Daddy Warbucks and Grace get together, and Christmas is especially merry for the orphan girls who get to spend the holiday at the Warbucks mansion. Yes, Annie makes you suspend your disbelief - and cynicism - and that might be this production’s best holiday gift of all.


  • Annie runs through December 31. The show runs about 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission. Shows are Wednesday to Saturday at 8 p.m.; matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 p.m. There are additional performances on November 24 at 2 p.m., December 22 at 2 p.m., and December 26 at 8 p.m.
  • Tickets begin at $47, with discounts for groups, seniors, military, and students.
  • There is free parking onsite. Drinks and snacks can be bought in the lobby: drinks are allowed in the auditorium.
  • There is some use of the word “damn” in the play and Miss Hannigan drinks but otherwise there’s nothing objectionable in the play.

Photos: Stan Barouh

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