The Sun Will Come Out: Annie’s Enduring Message of Hope

Judging by how fast tickets have been flying off the shelves for the April 26—28 engagement at The Lincoln Center, one might say that a show like Annie needs no introduction. “You know, it’s funny. It’s a lasting storyline, it is,” says Stefanie Londini, who plays Ms. Hannigan. “It’s endured for generations, and I think our show is very clear evidence of that. I think there is something beautiful about the concept of optimism and hope. But I think our version will still surprise you a little bit.”

For Londini, the show represents so much more than a piece of musical history. “The notion that if you keep on keeping on, the sun will eventually come out. I think that is one of the more beautiful, hopeful ideas. I think that no matter what time period you’re in, I think everyone in some way or another is waiting for the sun to come out tomorrow.”

Annie is an orphan who lives a “hard knock life” in an orphanage run by Ms. Hannigan, an alcoholic who yearns for an easier life. When capitalist Daddy Warbucks needs to spruce up his public image, he decides to adopt a girl for a week but Annie has other plans. Eventually, Annie’s charm and personality win him over.

With Annie being such an inspiration for optimism, you’d think Londino would be asking herself what would Annie do in different situations. “No,” Londino laughs. “It’s more like, what would Ms. Hannigan not do?”

And Londino thinks about Ms. Hannigan… a lot. Most tours that travel to The Lincoln Center feature actors stepping into roles that originated with previous tours. This can often mean that actors must face whether or not to play their roles the same way as the original actors did. But not this time; Lincoln Center audiences are in for a special treat because Londino is this tour’s original Ms. Hannigan and will play the character just as she sees her.

“Ms. Hannigan is a tragic character. Of course, she’s the villain and there’s a ton of humor there, but what really lifts her off the page is that she’s grounded in reality,” says Londino. “Annie takes place in the Great Depression, a horrible, horrible time. You’re talking about extreme poverty and extreme terror around every corner. And I think that Ms. Hannigan is an example of someone who has some modicum of security in that world, but it’s proof in the pudding that security isn’t enough to be happy.”

Ultimately, Londino thinks Ms. Hannigan is relatable even though she is the villain. “I think most of us know the feeling of being trapped in a dead-end job you hate with no options and no prospects because jobs are so scarce. We’ve gotta make the bottom dollar, so what compromises do we make to do that?”

To create the part, Londino went deep. She watched and read anything and everything she could her hands on. “This is a legacy part and you’re standing on the shoulders Hannigans before you. I wanted to know what everyone else thought—what everyone else brought to the table. I think the part requires that kind of homage.”

Carol Burnett’s portrayal of Ms. Hannigan looms large in the public consciousness, which Londino acknowledges. “But my Hannigan is my Hannigan. There a definitely a little bit of Carol and a little bit of Dorothy Loudon in her, but she’s her own animal. Mine is mean, and scary. I think her kind of rage comes from a deep pain.”

The director, Jenn Thompson, played Pepper in the original Broadway run of Annie. With such deep ties, one would expect a strictly traditional approach to Annie. Londino disagrees. “Jenn really brought the best of both worlds. She has this rich legacy and history with the play. She really brought back the original in terms of the score and the script because she thought it was the best iteration.” But as for directing the cast, Thompson let her actors create something new. “Jenn believes that 90% of directing is casting, and 10% is getting out of the way.”

This is why Londino was able to explore the full picture of Ms. Hannigan, as opposed to playing a one-dimensional, comical villain. “I think our version is more gritty. There’s a little more danger and it comes from the desperation and struggles that everyone is having during the Great Depression—how that makes people do things that perhaps they wouldn’t do in another life. That’s definitely the case with Ms. Hannigan in our story.”

But more than that, the play explores the distinctively American worship of the wealthy. “Oliver Warbucks is the wealthy man who saves the day, and Ms. Hannigan is the government worker who is the villain. I think there are undertones of that, but it was written by people who were very liberal. I think that was deliberate. I think it was tongue in cheek in a lot of ways, an Annie-esque hopefulness of what the rich could do and what the rich could be.”

“At its most meta, and most layered way,” Londino continues, “Annie was a dream of what the wealthy might be able to do for the lower classes should they be so inclined, should they get to know them in the way Warbucks gets to know Annie.’

Essentially, though this tour of Annie has a lot more grit, it will still be at its heart, a story of optimism.

“For a lot of people,” Londino says, “Annie was their first musical. They watched the movie when they were kids. Grandmas tell me that it’s their first show, and they bring their granddaughters for their first show. The show inspires a childlikeness and I think that’s one of Annie’s most beautiful qualities. She hasn’t lost that pluckiness, that youthful innocence, that hope… and maybe it’s born of naivety, but I don’t think so. I think the truth of Annie is that she knows something that is hard to remember: knowing that it will get better. That’s an extraordinary strength and a deep wisdom.”

And it’s that spirit that Londino herself believes in. “I wouldn’t have done 388 performances of this show if I didn’t believe in the messaging.”

Londino loves the crowds in Colorado, and can’t wait to play Fort Collins. “You can guarantee yourself some big belly laughs, a beautiful spectacle and a story and a score that will leave you humming,” says Londino.

The National Broadway Tour of Annie plays The Lincoln Center April 26–28, 2024. Tickets start at $20 and are selling fast at