Theatre At The Center’s “Annie Warbucks” thrills as major musical’s forgotten sequel

Annie Warbucks Photos provided by Guy Rhodes

The timing couldn’t be better for “Annie Warbucks” to roll into the Theatre At The Center, which besides boasting a holiday-centered setting, also comes to the greater Chicagoland area (Munster, Indiana to be exact) following a downtown run of its prequel “Annie.” While the follow-up may not have earned nearly as many stripes on Broadway, the rarely performed musical is just as vital a part of the growing Warbucks family’s puzzle, taking place immediately after the rich business tycoon/future patriarch (David Girolmo) commits to adopting the little orphan (Emily Zimmerman) who shares the show’s namesake.

For the entire journey, the actors young and old (along with S’Wheats as Sandy the dog) do a bang-up job conveying the sometimes forgotten charm of “Annie Warbucks,” and while it might not possess the original Tony Award-winner’s popularity, it packs enough punch to please dedicated fans and likely prompt newcomers to fall in love with the “Annie” franchise long before the final “I do.”

Annie WarbucksNo, the music this time through doesn’t boast any runaway smashes such as “Tomorrow” or “It’s The Hard Knock Life,” but the top notch cast does a commendable job selling all the otherwise well-constructed pop tunes, and perhaps most importantly, a script filled with adventure and unpredictability from Christmas day until wedding day. In between, the provisional Daddy Warbucks is told by the mean Commissioner Doyle (Iris Lieberman) he must first find a wife in order for Annie’s adoption to be officially approved, otherwise she’ll be shipped back to the orphanage.

Though the news sends shockwaves throughout the household (further complicated by a two month deadline), the optimistic father-to-be quickly agrees to see as many women as possible with the hopes of finding the right catch. As the deciding date looms, the choices seem to go from bad to worse, plus even more perplexing is the fact that Warbucks fails to consider his beautiful assistant Grace Farrell (Elizabeth Telford), despite her affectionate hints and tender relationship with Annie.

Just when it seems like all faith is fading, a seemingly perfect match comes in the form of smooth talker Sheila Kelly (Heidi Kettenring), but with a major bombshell coming around the corner, the audience is kept guessing all the way to the altar. For the entire journey, the actors young and old (along with S’Wheats as Sandy the dog) do a bang-up job conveying the sometimes forgotten charm of “Annie Warbucks,” and while it might not possess the original Tony Award-winner’s popularity, it packs enough punch to please dedicated fans and likely prompt newcomers to fall in love with the “Annie” franchise long before the final “I do.”


“Annie Warbucks” continues various dates and times at the Theatre At The Center through December 18. For additional details, visit TheatreAtTheCenter.com.

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