Ever try to imagine what happened beyond the happy ending in the musical “Annie,” when the orphan is adopted by millionaire Daddy Warbucks? Wonder no more, because now you can see the musical and its sequel “Annie Warbucks” back to back, from November 14 through December 1 at The Cat near the Carmel Arts & Design District. The repertory presentation of the two productions by Carmel Apprentice Theatre is a world premiere according to Will Wood, The Cat co-founder and the show’s executive producer, who added, “It completes that story that started in ‘Annie.’ ‘Annie’ ends at Christmas time in 1933. ‘Annie Warbucks’ starts in the same scene, with the exact same characters on stage. The very next word is the start of ‘Annie Warbucks,” the sequel that answers a lot of questions. If you were to sit and watch the entire five hours, it is one long show. If you see them back to back, you will have seen the entire ‘Annie’ saga.”
Based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” both “Annie,” which opened on Broadway in 1977, and “Annie Warbucks” were created by Charles Strouse, who wrote the music, Martin Charnin, who wrote the lyrics and Thomas Meehan, who wrote the book for each.
For the uninitiated, “Annie” tells the story of Annie, an orphan in a facility run by the mean Miss Hannigan. She believes her parents left her there by mistake. When a rich man named Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks decides to let an orphan live at his home to promote his image, Annie is selected. While Annie gets accustomed to living in Warbucks’ mansion, she still longs to meet her parents, so Warbucks announces a search for them and a reward brings out many imposters.
In “Annie Warbucks,” Child Welfare Commissioner Harriet Doyle (she replaces Miss Hannigan as the villain in this piece) arrives at the mansion on Christmas morning in 1933 to inform Daddy Warbucks he must marry within 60 days or else Annie will be returned to the orphanage. Daddy Warbucks’ furtive search for a bride reveals not only a plot by Doyle and her daughter Sheila Kelly to steal his fortune, but also his true feelings about his long-time assistant, Grace Farrell. Annie’s cute fellow orphans and President Franklin D. Roosevelt return to take part in the proceedings.
When asked why “Annie” still endures with audiences, director Lori Ecker stated, “Because of the message of unwavering hope and optimism in the bleakest and darkest of times. And all of it from a little girl who has every reason to give up. Not only does she endure, she inspires hope in the other children around her, as well as the adults who come into her life, and her rare and special qualities transform the lives of others. Annie never gives up and this is just the kind of person we look for, and are inspired by, during the hardest times of our lives. This is especially relevant now for children and adults all over the world.”
Regarding the message of “Annie Warbucks,” director Heather Rider emphasized, “Love. How it softens people, but how it is also worth fighting for. That you should lean into the one you love because it knows no bounds and doesn’t have to fall within what is socially acceptable. The love of a parent to a child that is selfless and protective and unconditional. To not be afraid of love. That people of all backgrounds and statuses can come together to form a community of love that works together for a greater good. To laugh and celebrate with the people you hold dear and never take them for granted.”
As far as the two casts, the majority of each is different than the other, requiring over 50 individuals to participate in both. Darrin Gowan plays Daddy Warbucks in each show, while Alexis “Lexie” Vahrenkamp plays the title role in “Annie” and Kate Honaker plays the same role in “Annie Warbucks.” Playing Sandy the dog in “Annie” is Sprocket and in “Annie Warbucks,” it’s Perkins.
Pertaining to “Annie” and “Annie Warbucks” and The Cat itself, Ecker said, “I am thrilled to be a part of the mission at The Cat. These productions allow us to help carry out that mission. I passionately believe the arts in this country and all of our communities, large and small, nationwide will survive only if art can also be seen and experienced by all people, regardless of their level of ability or commitment to it as a profession. The Cat is theatre for the community and for everyone in the community. I love co-founders Will Wood’s and Lisa Williamson’s goal of creating the best production experience for the actors above the goal of casting and creating the best production possible. I’m honored to bring that kind of art into people’s lives.”
Thursday, November 14, 7:30 p.m. – “Annie”
Friday, November 15, 7:30 p.m. – “Annie Warbucks”
Saturday, November 16, 7:30 p.m. – “Annie”
Sunday, November 17, 2:30 p.m. – “Annie Warbucks”
Thursday, November 21, 7:30 p.m. – “Annie”
Friday, November 22, 7:30 p.m.- “Annie Warbucks”
Saturday, November 23, 7:30 p.m. – “Annie”
Sunday, November 24, 2:30 p.m. – “Annie Warbucks”
Friday, November 29, 7:30 p.m. – “Annie”
Saturday, November 30, 2:30 p.m. – “Annie”
Saturday, November 30, 7:30 p.m. – “Annie Warbucks”
Sunday, December 1, 2:30 p.m. – “Annie Warbucks”
For tickets and information, go thecatheatre.com. The Cat is located at 254 Veterans Way, Carmel, Indiana 46032.