Oh, boy! Oh, girl! Oh … singing, dancing slew of orphans! In its second Broadway revival since its debut in 1977, Annie is touring the nation once again. Leaving a tender wake of nostalgia focused on its eponymous, tawny-haired ingénue, this latest major stage production of Annie will arrive in Reno tomorrow for a three-day, five-performance tour stop.
The story has been around for a while. Annie, the musical, is based on the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip, which debuted in 1924 and was conceived by Harold Gray. The strip took its title from the 1885 James Whitcomb Riley poem “Little Orphant Annie.” America saw the redheaded ragamuffin through many sketched adventures, including the World War II era story of Annie leading a group of intrepid kids as they uncover a nest of Nazi spies. Kid power!
The musical is part of the Pioneer Center’s Broadway Comes to Reno series, now in its 13th season, and features the staging stylings of Peter Gennaro, who worked on the original Broadway production.
The waifs of Annie may have it rough, but it’s not such a hard knock life for David Barton—even if he had to shave his head in order to play the part of Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. Fortune smiles on the brave, it’s true, and since Barton had the gumption to out-audition about 200 other actors to score his headlining role, the fact that he happens to look pretty good bald seems like an appreciative nod from Lady Luck.
Although he bears himself with charming diffidence, Barton is a veteran of the stage. He spent 25 years as a high school theater teacher and a founding member of the Steeple Players Theater—a faith-based, volunteer-run acting company originally based out of First United Methodist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.
Barton harbored a long-term dream to expand his acting career to broader stages, but held off pursuing it in earnest to raise his kids. “I didn’t want to be one of those absentee fathers who is on the road all of the time,” he says. In his late 40s, with the kids out of the nest, Barton was ready to seriously explore his thespian aspirations.
The road ahead was difficult, but worth it, according to Barton. “It’s actually been quite fun. I’ve enjoyed the travel very much. The hardest part is being away from family and friends.”
He credits his previous experiences with Steeple Players for preparing him for a Broadway tour. “It was an outlet that allowed me to hone my craft while raising a family,” said Barton.
Barton is joined by spry, charismatic Amanda Balon, who plays Annie, and by Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan, the most rapacious matron in stage musical history. The cast is primed and the local grandstand set for of one of the longest-running Broadway shows ever. Annie has been performed all over the world, including well over 2,000 times in the United States alone. The sun will come out tomorrow for this winsome, fist-pumping, firecracker tramp and her band of spunky offshoots.