116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
No matter how gloomy the world around you may seem, it’s always a sunshine day when Annie comes to town.
The curly-haired moppet will be dancing into both ends of the Corridor, when the musical bearing her name comes to Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City from Nov. 14 to 16 and the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids on May 9.
Little Orphan Annie debuted in a comic strip in the New York Daily News in the 1920s, and kept gaining speed during the turbulent 1930s and ’40s. Then she burst onto Broadway in 1977 and swept up seven Tony Awards out of 11 nominations, including wins for Best Musical and Best Original Score. She’s been tap dancing her way into hearts ever since, through multiple revivals, tours and movies.
It’s the fairy tale story of an 11-year-old girl who just knows deep down that her parents didn’t mean to leave her at the orphanage run by the boozy, floozy Miss Hannigan, and that they will return for her someday — maybe.
What: “Annie” on tour
Iowa City: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 to 16, 2022, Hancher Auditorium, 141 E. Park Rd.; $40 to $75 adults, $32 to $60 college students and youths; Hancher Box Office, 1-(800) HANCHER or (319) 335-1160, online at hancher.uiowa.edu/2022-23/Annie
Cedar Rapids: 7:30 p.m. May 9, 2023, Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE; $58 to $88; Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or creventslive.com/events/2022/broadway-at-the-paramount-annie
Show’s website: annietour.com/
Then one day, she gets to turn in her rags for riches when she’s chosen to spend the holidays in the home of Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, who has more bucks than anyone can imagine. She charms the socks off everyone she meets, and eventually melts Warbucks’ heart, as well, with her unending optimism.
That’s a message for the ages — true during the Depression and resonating today.
“I suppose they always say that it’s a great time for ‘Annie,’ ” Harrison Drake, a cast member born in Iowa, said by phone from a tour stop in Montgomery, Ala. “They say that with a lot of musicals like, ‘Now’s a great time.’
“But really, night after night, just watching the profound effect of optimism that this show represents, and you can take that optimism and apply it to so many different aspects of your life. We cover political aspects, we cover familial aspects, and just friendship. We cover so many things in this show in which you can take that optimism and apply it to (your life).
“So I think a lot of audience members can walk away with hope. … It’s just a great message to apply to their lives as we move forward out of the darkness that we’ve been in for a while.
“It’s a great reminder,” he said. “I think people know that they can have that hope, but sometimes it just gets a little bit lost and things get in the way like they do in Annie’s journey. But eventually, it’s all going to work out in the end.”
Ironically, Drake plays Drake, the head butler at Warbucks’ mansion, the one “who keeps everything going.” He also is the understudy for Warbucks and FDR, so he may get to step into those shoes along the tour, which so far is contracted through July.
“I enjoy Drake because at the beginning, he’s part of this really robotic staff,” the actor said. “There’s not a lot of life in the mansion because Mr. Warbucks has created an atmosphere that’s just a little bit cold and everything is very, let’s-get-down-to-business. And when Annie visits the mansion, not only does she have an effect on Mr. Warbucks, but she has an effect on everybody in the mansion,” Drake said.
“It’s fun just getting the opportunity to warm up and have a journey throughout the rest of the show. By the end of it, I’m fully singing and dancing and having a great old time. So I just enjoy going on a journey with him throughout the whole show.”
Drake, now 29, has been on his own journey through the theatrical realm.
Born in Burlington, he spent his first few years in Mount Pleasant before his family moved to Lincoln, Neb. His mother grew up in Belmond, north of Ames, so he’s made many trips to Iowa to visit grandparents and other relatives. He’s looking forward to seeing friends and family in the audiences when “Annie” swings through Iowa.
“They’ve all supported me from afar for a few years,” he said, “so hopefully a few of them are going to be able to make it to see the show.”
He especially appreciates the way his parents have supported his decision to move to New York and pursue his theatrical dreams.
He said he came into acting “pretty late.” During his junior year of high school in Lincoln, Neb., he was cast as Phil Davis in “White Christmas” — the role Danny Kaye played onscreen — and was hooked.
“I was always a choir kid up until that point, and the choir teacher just suggested that I should try out for the musical,” he said. “And then my high school kept doing tap musicals. I did ‘Crazy for You’ my senior year, so I got a lot of tap skills earlier on. But since I got into theater so late, I didn’t realize it was something to go do in college.”
Instead, he studied advertising at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and became involved in community theater while juggling classes. After graduating, he spent a year working for a sports technology company so he could save up enough money to move to New York in 2017 and focus on auditioning.
That plan worked.
The first month there, he got an agent and the next week, joined the cast on a cruise ship sailing around Mexico, South America, and back to California. His next cruise ship gig was his favorite, sailing to Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific islands, including Hawaii.
“It was honestly the best time of my life,” he said. “We would dock in the day and I’d go out and explore. And then I would just show up when all the passengers did, and then I just would happen to sing in the show at night — and it just was incredible.”
On dry land, he’s had some pretty plum roles, including a national tour with “A Bronx Tale,” and the understudy for Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” in Oklahoma City. This production marks his third time with “Annie.”
His first time with the show was a community theater production in Nebraska about 10 years ago. Then three years ago, he was in a professional production at a regional theater in Maine, where Sally Struthers of TV’s “All in the Family” fame played Miss Hannigan, head of the oppressive orphanage where Annie has been living a hard-knock life. Robert Newman from “Guiding Light,” “General Hospital” and “Santa Barbara” portrayed Daddy Warbucks.
“That was a cool experience, to do (‘Annie’) with some really big names,” Drake said, adding that he’s “so proud” of the current tour he’s on.
“This production just really has a ton of resources that’s been invested in it. We have so many Broadway creatives who have done the design for the show, and then our director, Jenn Thompson, was an original orphan on Broadway. She has a huge connection to the show, and she had so much insight to give to us that was really inspiring. So I’m really proud of this one,” Drake said.
“I’ve loved it every time I’ve done it, but each time gets a little bit better.”
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