WATERLOO — Darrell White chose to shave his head over wearing a bald cap not long after he won the role of Daddy Warbucks in the Waterloo Community Playhouse production of “Annie.”
“I did it early so I could get used to it. I have a lot of hair, so it’s a chore now to shave every day, but I want to make sure it looks good,” says White, who is lead pastor at Cedar Valley Church.
His congregation was surprised when he debuted his new look. “I just told them to get it out of their systems,” he says, laughing.
The beloved musical, which has been on WCP’s marquee every decade since the 1980s, opened Thursday and runs through Dec. 16.
In this family-friendly musical, little orphan Annie is taken from the orphanage run by the malicious and malevolent Miss Hannigan (Kristin Teig Torres) to spend the holidays at billionaire Daddy Warbucks’ mansion. Annie wins his heart as they set out on a mission to find her parents.
The show won the 1977 Tony award for best musical. It is based on Harold Gray’s comic strip which he started in the 1920s, taking its name from the 1885 James Whitcomb Riley poem, “Little Orphant Annie.”
Director Greg Holt believes the chemistry between Daddy Warbucks and Annie is the key element. “Warbucks just cares about money until this red-headed orphan comes into his life, and he undergoes a transformation. He’s taken with the idea of being a dad. He blossoms a bit at the end,” Holt explains.
Staying true to the original character is important, says White. “Warbucks is such a well-known character that you’re just bringing your own characteristics to the role, not changing it.”
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At 6-foot-5-inches, White towers above the diminutive, red-headed Gina Brooks, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School in Cedar Falls, cast as Annie. She was chosen from among 84 girls who auditioned for the plum role. Her understudy is Emmi Flynn, who also plays orphan Nancy.
The 38-member cast includes 16 orphans and a friendly and enthusiastic miniature golden-doodle named Sophie. She plays Annie’s dog, Sandy. (And yes, there were dog auditions too.)
“Sophie is amazingly friendly and good-natured, and the orphans just love her. Her training is going well, but you never know with a dog. She could jump off the stage to go visit someone in the audience. I’ve told Gina no matter what happens, don’t let it throw you,” Holt says.
Set designer is Mike Ingram, with lights by Thomas White and sound design by Tony John. Costume designer is Jana Fairbanks. Candace Van Hove is choreographing the dance numbers, while Crystal Waltz is the music director.
Holt opted for the official show tracks as the music. “We have lots of control over those and can do some editing to suit our needs. What I like about it is we don’t lose stage space with a pit or band on stage.”
This also will be the first show for the theater’s new speaker system.
“Through grants and donations, we’ve had $15,000 to $20,000 speaker upgrades, and I’m excited to see how it impacts the audience and actors.”