National tour of 'Annie' bringing more sunshine to The Hanover Theatre

Krista Curry, Nick Bernardi and Stefanie Londino appear in the in the National Tour of, "Annie."
Krista Curry, Nick Bernardi and Stefanie Londino appear in the in the National Tour of, "Annie."

WORCESTER – More than 45 years after "Annie" opened on Broadway, the sun is still coming out for the iconic Tony-Award winning musical.

A new national touring production opened in Syracuse, New York, in October, and is visiting cities across the country.

"Annie" will be at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts for six performances Feb. 23 to 26 as part of The Hanover Theatre's Broadway Series.

"It's good, man. It's good," said cast member Nick Bernardi when asked how the tour was going during a recent telephone interview when the show was Cincinnati.

"Audiences, they love it. Every city we go to, L.A., Philly, Iowa City, every place has little girls dressed up like Annie," Bernardi noted. Some people have even dressed up as Daddy Warbucks at a few stops, he said."Annie's such a crowd pleaser."

Regarding why the show is still so popular, Bernardi said "Optimism's a big reason for me. Everyone wants to beleve in a better tomorrow."

Ellie Pulsifer and Christopher Swan star in the touring company of "Annie."
Ellie Pulsifer and Christopher Swan star in the touring company of "Annie."

As Little Orphan Annie puts it in "Tomorrow," "The sun will come out tomorrow." Other numbers in the show include "Maybe," "It's the Hard Knock Life," "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," "Easy Street," "I Don't Need Anything But You."

As rehearsals started Bernardi said he was taken aback by how many good songs there are in the musical. "Man, like I knew these songs were in 'Annie,' but it's one right after the other. They're fantastic," he said.

Bernardi, however, is playing a bad guy in "Annie" — Rooster Hannigan.

And he's enjoying it.

"It's always fun playing the bad guy," he said.

Based on the comic strip "Little Orphan Annie,'' the musical "Annie'' opened April 21, 1977, at the Alvin Theatre in New York City and features a score by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin and a book by Thomas Meehan.

"Annie" is set in New York City in the Great Depression in 1933, and the storyline has plucky Annie running away from the repressive orphanage she lives in that's run by the cruel Miss Hannigan to look for her parents. She adopts a stray dog, Sandy, along the way, but ends up being sent back to the orphanage.

Through it all, Annie retains a sunny and optimistic disposition. Lo and behold, her luck improves. Billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks decides to invite an orphan over to his house for Christmas and Annie is chosen. The two quickly hit it off and he agrees to help Annie find her parents by putting up a $50,000 reward.

But Rooster Hannigan is the no-good scheming younger brother of Miss Hannigan and has just escaped jail. Rooster and his gold-digging girlfriend Lily try to pose as Annie's long-lost parents to claim the reward by using information provided by Miss Hannigan. Is there anything President Roosevelt can do to help?

"Annie" won seven 1977 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The family-friendly musical has been revived on Broadway twice, in 1997 and 2012. It has also been made into a film three times (1982, 1999, 2014) and was most recently featured as a live television production on NBC. The show remains one of the biggest Broadway musical hits ever; it has been performed in 28 languages and has been running somewhere around the world for 45 years.

Bernardi can see parallels to the world of Annie, where the Great Depression caused immense social and political divides, and the world of today. "For sure, for sure. It's kind of a divided country right now as well," he said. "It's eerily similar to now."

Ellie Pulsifer, center, is making her debut in the title role of "Annie."
Ellie Pulsifer, center, is making her debut in the title role of "Annie."

Still, little orphan Annie is pushing forward "with kindness and good intentions. I think that resonates today and will resonate 50 years from now," Bernardi said.

The new touring production features the original book, lyrics and music. The show is directed by  Jenn Thompson, who at the age of 10 was one of the orphans in the original Broadway production.

In the title role of Annie is Ellie Pulsifer, a 12-year-old actress from South Florida, making her tour debut. Christopher Swan  stars as Oliver Warbucks and Stefanie Londino is Miss Hannigan. The cast also includes Julia Nicole Hunter as Grace, Warbuck's secretary;   Krista Curry as Lily;  Mark Woodard as FDR; young actors as the orphans at the orphanage; and an ensemble. Addison, a stray mutt rescued  through the Humane Society stars as Sandy. Georgie is the understudy,

"An innocent child, kids on stage, and a dog," Bernardi noted about some more of the musical's appealing qualities.

In contrast, Rooster dreams of "Easy Street" but "he's a bit of a grifter. Looking for a way to make a buck he comes up with a plan," Bernardi said.

Rooster could be said to be in Bernardi's blood. When he was younger he saw his uncle play Rooster in a production of "Annie" in Sam Francisco.

In fact, Bernardi has played a preponderance of bad guys throughout is acting career, he said.

He was talking to the young cast members who play the orphans back stage one day when he was asked "do you ever the play the good guy?"

Bernardi said his mom has asked, " 'When are you going to play a good guy?' " His response is, "I don't know, Ma."

Still, with Krista Curry "we have a great time," he said of playing Rooster and Lily.

Originally from San Mateo, Calif., Bernardi said he's "moved a few times" and bounces between Los Angeles and New York City.

He's also worked as an electrician and bartender when the need arises.

To begin with "I never knew for sure it was something I wanted to do," he said of musical theater.

When he was a senior in high school he was cast in a community theater production of "Aladdin."

A turning point came when he saw a production of "Jersey Boys."

"Tough Italian boys. (I thought) I could do that."

He studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles and landed regional theater roles but there was a two year pause while he worked as an electrician.

"My dad said 'Do you want to be an electrician or an actor?'"

After getting back on track "I've been blessed to be pretty much booked," he said.

"It's been a fun ride — I used to sing at events weddings, openings — that was a blast as well."

Bernardi has played the obnoxious '80s rock god Stacee Jaxx in "Rock of Ages,"  and in a recent tour of Asia and Australia of a new musical developed around the Barbie doll he also played a bad guy. Other roles include the hard-nosed (but considerate) tough guy Kenickie in "Grease," and Tommy DeVito in "Jersey Boys." The late DeVito wasn't a bad guy, but his gambling debts led him to leaving The Four Seasons.

Bernardi was in "Rock of Ages" in Los Angeles when the pandemic struck. After the lockdown eased, Bernardi's first show back in live in-person performance was a production of "Rock of Ages" in Long Island.

"Man, I can't even describe it. You have that taken from you. The first time I had an audience back every first was heightened to the tenth time," he said.

Subsequently, the Barbie Asia/Australia tour "went pretty well. I don't know what happened (to the show) after that."

Bernardi was cast in "Annie" and besides enjoying the musical he said he likes the touring aspect of a touring show and seeing new cities. His visit to Worcester with "Annie" will be his first time here.

"Annie" is currently scheduled to be touring until mid-June. Beyond that Bernardi does not know.

"You never know what's next," he said.

But the sun was going to come out tomorrow.

"It's ('Annie') been selling really well. I'm having a blast so far," Bernardi said.


When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23; 8 p.m. Feb. 24; 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 25; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26. Audio Description services available at the 1 p.m. Feb. 26 performance; ASL available at the 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 performance. If you are using ASL services, please let the ticket office know when you are ready to purchase tickets so they can place you in seats in front of the ASL interpreter.

Where: The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts, 2 Southbridge St., Worcester

How much: $39 to $84 depending on seat location and performance. Box office, (877) 571-7469;

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: National tour of 'Annie' bringing more sunshine to The Hanover Theatre