The sun is out at Cadillac Palace Theatre: ‘Annie’ continues to capture hearts


Credit to Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Ellie Pulsifer (center) stars as titular character Annie in the Cadillac Palace Theater performance of “Annie,” which runs until March 19.

The fan-favorite “Annie” is back in full swing in downtown Chicago this month, and it’s a treat for theater-goers of all ages. Led by a remarkable performance from Ellie Pulsifer as the titular character, “Annie” is a ball of energy that puts a heartwarming story on full display.

Set in New York City, the story follows Annie, a young girl living in an orphanage run by a wicked woman named Ms. Hannigan (Stefanie Londino), who dreams of reuniting with her birth parents. When a Wall Street tycoon named Oliver Warbucks (Christopher Swan) decides to let an orphan live with him for two weeks during the Christmas holiday, Annie is chosen. Annie soon begins to melt the icy heart of “Daddy” Warbucks and continues the quest for her real parents. 

At just 12 years old, Pulsifer is able to command the stage with both powerhouse vocals and quality acting chops, bringing the show to life and telling the beautiful, well-known story of little orphan Annie. 

Contending with Pulsifer for show-stealing honors is the ensemble of orphans living with Ms. Hannigan. The six little girls dance, sing and act their way through the show, creating chaos for their caregiver and supporting Annie as she tries to locate her birth parents. Pepper (Riglee Ruth Bryson), Molly (Bronte Harrison), July (Vivianne Neely), Kate (Izzy Pike), Duffy (Kenzie Rees) and Tessie (Valeria Velasco) are a spectacle to behold on stage. Not only do they hold their own as pre-teens on a Broadway stage, they completely captivate the audience with their humorous remarks, on-stage chemistry and consistent vocals.  

Stefanie Londino perfectly pulls off the bitter and nefarious Ms. Hannigan, showcasing some pretty impressive vocals while lamenting about the “little girls” she looks after and scheming with her ne’er-do-well brother to rip off Mr. Warbucks. Her performance makes the final scene, where Ms. Hannigan and her accomplices are hauled off to jail for fraud, that much more satisfying for the audience. 

Christopher Swan as the stone-cold Oliver Warbucks undergoes a poignant transformation during the show from a money-hungry businessman to a loving father who comes to care deeply for Annie. We see just how much Warbucks has changed when he conducts a manhunt for Annie’s parents, despite knowing that he would have to part with his newfound daughter if her parents are located. 

Sadly for Annie, we come to find that her parents perished after giving her up for adoption. But, she has found a new family in “Daddy” Warbucks and his kind and welcoming household staff (who happen to be tremendous singers and dancers as well). 

Annie also develops a fun relationship with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States in 1933, when FDR helps Warbucks lead the FBI in searching for Annie’s folks. She even leads FDR and his cabinet in song and dance during one scene, which actually provides FDR with inspiration for The New Deal, a series of programs aimed at ending the Great Depression. 

The final scene is perhaps the most moving, as Annie and her orphanage friends all gather at the Warbucks mansion to celebrate Christmas with “Daddy” Warbucks, his staff and FDR. The set design and costuming is stunning, with a grand staircase, a huge Christmas tree decorated with lights, and glamorous festive ensembles worn by everyone on stage. The show also featured a beautiful live orchestra, adding to the emotive and heartwarming atmosphere that entranced the audience. 

There were also two non-human members of the cast that might have just stolen the show. Addison and Georgie played Sandy, the stray dog that Annie finds when she is traipsing around New York City. The final scene concludes when a large present rolls onto stage, Annie opens it, and Sandy leaps out to embrace Annie and her friends from the orphanage. The surprise was met with huge cheers and applause from the audience, and maybe even a couple of tears. 

The National Tour of “Annie” is a vibrant and lively experience that packs an awful lot of charm, laughter and starpower. It’s safe to say that it won’t be a hard knock life for anyone who goes to see the show before it leaves the city on March 19.