Modern classic starts Friday at Chesapeake; Success: Since its first production, 'Annie' has seen anything but a 'hard knock life' as a Broadway hit. Chesapeake Music Hall will try its hand at the show; Preview; ARUNDEL LIVE


Our favorite optimistic orphan, "Annie," will brighten Chesapeake Music Hall's stage starting this Friday and continuing at the Annapolis dinner theater through June 25.

Adapting Harold Gray's comic strip character to the musical stage was the idea of lyricist-director Martin Charnin, who convinced playwright Thomas Meehan and composer Charles Strouse to join him in the venture.

The trio later added Mike Nichols, who after seeing the Connecticut tryout, offered to produce the show on Broadway. "Annie" opened to raves at the Alvin Theatre in April 1977 and ran for 2,377 performances, making it the third longest-running show of the 1970s.

In 1982, the movie version starring Albert Finney, Aileen Quinn, Ann Reinking and Carol Burnett was released. A 20th anniversary version opened on Broadway in 1997 and is on tour.

Now the Chesapeake Music Hall is preparing to perform its version of the Broadway hit.

"Annie" is set in 1933, Depression-era New York, where 11-year old Annie hopes to be rescued from the clutches of Agatha Hannigan, the mean matron at the Municipal Orphanage. Annie escapes in a laundry truck, and finds and adopts Sandy, a stray mutt. Together they wind up in Hooverville, a shantytown soon raided by policemen, who return Annie to the orphanage.

Officer Ward returns Annie to a furious Hannigan at the orphanage. Oliver Warbucks' secretary, Grace Farrell, arrives in search of an orphan to share Christmas with her billionaire boss, and she chooses Annie. Charmed by Annie's optimism, Warbucks decides to adopt her, a plan matron Hannigan tries to thwart.

Annie wants to find her parents, and Warbucks tries to help by offering a reward to anyone who can prove to be her parents. With Hannigan's help, Rooster, Hannigan's brother and his girlfriend Lily pose as Annie's parents to collect the reward. While Warbucks is visiting his friend, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the White House, he learns that many claiming to be Annie's parents have gathered outside his mansion. Rushing back, Annie and Warbucks find all are imposters, and Warbucks makes plans to adopt Annie.

At Chesapeake Music Hall, David B. Reynolds has already shaved his head for his role as Warbucks, and Susan Bell has practiced her snarl to play Hannigan.

Andrea Elward plays Farrell.

Robin Chapin plays FDR, Jeff Davis is Rooster Hannigan, Shanon Benil is Lily St. Regis and Julia Melton plays Annie.

Alternating as orphans are: Nicole Anderson-Yetter and Rebecca Davis as Pepper, Linsey Marten and Brianna Chamberlin as Kate, Jenna Voorhees and Kate Melton as July, Jessica Caruso and Allie Sullivan as Molly and Katherine Riddle and Alice Hurley as Tessie.

"Annie" runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday matinees in addition to some matinees on the Wednesdays of May 17, 31 and June 7 and 21. Chesapeake Music Hall is in Annapolis off U.S. 50 on Busch's Frontage Road.

Call Chesapeake Music Hall for additional information and to make reservations at 410-626-7515 or 800-406-0306.

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