Eternal optimist ‘Annie’ returns to Detroit

Andrea Daniel
Special to the Detroit News

The lyrics “Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I’ll love ya, tomorrow. You’re only a day away ...” from the Tony Award-winning musical “Annie” have stood the test of time.

The story of the beloved red-haired orphan with the never-give-up approach to life, her dog Sandy and benefactor Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks began as the newspaper comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” in 1924.

Over time, the storyline inspired radio shows, films and a musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1977. The musical has since been performed in 28 languages around the world.

The current version of the show, helmed by original director and lyricist Martin Charnin, launches its national tour at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit this weekend.

Playing Annie is 9-year old Issie Swickle, who says part of the thrill of the role started with the transformation to look like Annie.

“I had long brown hair, and they chopped it all off and dyed it red,” says the young actress by phone from New York City. “And I get to wear a cool red wig, too.”

Being Annie also means the youngster can express her love for singing, something she has been passionate about since she was 3.

Taking center stage for the singer is the iconic “Tomorrow,” where she interacts with Sandy.

“There’s a scene in the middle of the song where I go ‘Come here, boy,’ and he jumps up and gives me his paws.”

The song “Maybe” is a runner up of favorites, she says.

“It’s one of my favorites because she is telling the orphans that there is hope, and that her parents are going to come get her. This song just makes you feel like Annie.”

Playing alongside Swickle is Gilgamesh Taggett as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, who explains that for all the decades the show has been performed, this version is familiar and fresh.

“Martin Charnin learned something new with each show,” the actor says over the phone. “He saw how it communicates to a younger generation and improved on it and returned it to its original ideal, which is the unstoppable spirit, and the heart and soul of the American dream of tomorrow is another day, and we can make it.”

While Taggett is not new to the role of “Daddy” Warbucks — he spent two seasons as the character at a theater in Cleveland, Ohio — he found this time around it came with a challenge.

“There were changes made to the script to make it more comfortable and accessible, which required the tiniest of changes, sometimes in wording,” he says. “So I actually had two years of a different version of the script in my head that I had to remove in order to do this one.

“But when you consider we are being directed by the man who first put it on Broadway and handled the lyrics, Martin Charnin, … he has raised my level up, and he is very specific about what he wants and that, in turn makes it very easy to take on a role that so many people are quite familiar with.”

Friday’s opening night is a special Family Night at the Fisher Theatre, in conjunction with Michigan Education Savings Plan (MESP). Before the show begins, children will have the opportunity to make their own crafts courtesy of the nonprofit organization Arts and Scraps and sample free ice cream from Treat Dreams. Pre-show activities begin at 6 p.m.

Andrea Daniel is a Detroit-based freelance writer.


Friday-Oct. 4

7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat.,

2 p.m. Sat., 1 p.m. Thurs. and Sun., Friday is Family Night with pre-show activities at 6 p.m.; Oct. 1 is an open-captions performance

Fisher Theatre

3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit

Tickets $35-$85

(800) 982-2787