Actor Stefanie Londino doesn’t have to wait for the sun to come out to smile in a big way, thanks to all the kids in the touring production of Annie.
“It’s wonderful to work with the orphans and Annie. They are my delight every day. I call them my chickens,” says Londino, who plays Miss Hannigan in the touring production, which will play Altria Theater, January 16 through 21. “These kids are doing eight shows a week and school on top of that. They are the north star of the production. They are full of joy.”
Annie, played by Rainier “Rainey” Treviño, an 11-year-old from Chesapeake, Virginia, steals the “show every night,” Londino says. “The dogs and the kids in the show make us a family.”
Each of the young actors has a parent or guardian who travels with them on tour. “It’s a nice experience to have the parents along,” Londino says, noting it adds another aspect to the tour.
The Tony-Award winning show centers around little Orphan Annie, an eternal optimist who serves as a living reminder that sunshine is behind the clouds, even in the darkest times.
And times are tough during the Great Depression in New York. No one is a better representative of the bitterness felt by the masses than Miss Hannigan, a lonely, angry woman who brusquely oversees the young orphans in the orphanage.
This year is the second year Londino steps into the shoes of Miss Hannigan. “She’s stuck, deeply unhappy, and sees no way out. She is mean, but when you understand the engine behind the mean – anger and rage – they are all the products of the Depression,” says Londino of her character. “She’s trying to hold on in any way she can. I feel for her.”
In past productions, Miss Hannigan has been more of a caricature, but Londino hopes to change that perception. “I think she is flesh and blood, human,” she says. “I so enjoy bringing humanity to that part. Of course, it’s a comedic gold mine, and I am delighted to plumb the depth.”
She loves appearing in the scenes with Grace Farrell, assistant to billionaire Oliver Warbucks. “It’s rare and wonderful when women are on stage with agendas and goals,” she says. “It’s great to go toe to toe with Julia Nicole Hunter (who plays Grace).”
Hannigan’s tooth-and-nail fight to get money however she can is the perfect contrast to Annie’s sweetness. “I get to go to dark places when I’m with Rooster (Hannigan’s brother) and Lily (his girlfriend),” she says. “The show is a steam engine, and it’s exciting to ride that ride each night.”
Londino got her own acting start when she was eight and appeared in her first musical at school. The show was Gypsy and she was a newsboy in the ensemble.
“Acting has always been a love of mine,” says the New Jersey native. “My mom took me to see Peter and the Starcatcher when I was four, and I was intrigued.”
“Tomorrow” and Optimism as a Political Act
Londino loves the fact that the touring production of Annie is directed by Jenn Thompson, who at the age of ten stepped into the role of Pepper in the original Broadway production.
“This is a new production that is an authentic form of the show,” she says, adding that the show will mark its fiftieth anniversary in 2026.
The show’s message of hope in the lyrics of “Tomorrow” has resonated with generations of theatergoers over the years.
“It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, something we need now,” Londino says. “Politically, it’s a message of bipartisanship and accord. Audiences always respond to that scene. They cheer when we are singing ‘Tomorrow.’”
There is something very genuine in that scene, she adds. “It’s a widely felt wish that it could be reality.”
Presented by Broadway in Richmond, Annie is showing at Altria Theater, January 16 through 21. For showtimes and tickets, visit Altria Theater.