Though she lives in a dismal orphanage and is constantly kicked around, Annie never gives up her positive outlook.
No matter what happens, she knows "the sun'll come out tomorrow."
Networks Presentations' touring production of the 1977 musical "Annie" is coming to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Feb. 19 for four performances.
Based on the "Little Orphan Annie" comic strip and written by Charles Strouse (music), Martin Charnin (lyrics) and Thomas Meehan (book), the show features a cast of 25, including seven girls ages 8 to 14, plus two dogs that alternate as Annie's faithful pooch, Sandy. There's also an eight-piece orchestra.
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Set in 1933 in New York, the musical follows Annie as she contends with the mean orphanage supervisor, Miss Hannigan, searches for her lost parents and joins the home of rich tycoon Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks for the holidays. Songs include "Hard Knock Life," "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile" and "Easy Street."
Before she gained fame as the lead in "Sex in the City," Sarah Jessica Parker played the title role on Broadway. The 1982 movie starred Aileen Quinn, with Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, Tim Curry as her sleazy brother and Bernadette Peters as his ditzy girlfriend.
Madison Kerth, a 12-year-old from New Orleans, stars as the title character and is on her second national tour in the part.
"She's just absolutely adorable and very, very talented," David Barton, who plays Warbucks, said in a telephone interview.
The girls in the cast each travel with a chaperone and share a tutor. "For the most part, they're well-behaved," Barton said. "They're very professional at the theater. They understand it's a job. That doesn't mean they don't behave like children. They do. They are children."
Barton said the dogs are also a pleasure to work with. They were trained by Bill Berloni, who trained the original Sandy for Broadway and wrote the book "Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars."
"The dogs are very predictable," Barton said. "They know their part, they know what they're supposed to do. They do it almost exactly the same. The dogs are treated as if they're actors."
Barton said he has never seen them get spooked. If there's a noise back stage or in the audience, they might look, but they don't leave the stage.
Some cast members spend a lot of time with the dogs, but the only performer who is allowed to give them a command is Annie.
Barton sees Warbucks as a Depression-era Donald Trump who is focused on building empires. "Warbucks is a very driven man," he said. "He's always had a single purpose and a single focus — to make money. The more money he made, the more money he wanted to make."
But he comes to miss not having a family in his life and gets a lot of joy from meeting Annie.
Warbucks is a bald man and Barton said he doesn't mind shaving his head for the part.
"I actually prefer it to my previous hairstyle," he said. "I'm going to keep it for a while. I was beginning to bald anyway."
While young girls make up a sizable portion of the audience, "Annie" appeals to all ages. People admire that though Annie has every right to be angry and pessimistic, she retains her cheery spirit.
"It's something each of us wishes we had but are not able to capture, so we experience it vicariously through this little girl," Barton said.