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‘Annie’s’ Stefanie Londino on making Miss Hannigan more ‘human’
DETROIT – Annie. Daddy Warbucks. Miss Hannigan.
The three most memorable characters in Annie, and all for different reasons. Agatha Hannigan has been immortalized by the likes of Carol Burnett and Kathy Bates in filmed versions of the 1977 Broadway musical.
Now, New Jersey-native Stefanie Londino is filling in the infamous boots in the new national tour of Annie.
We chat with Londino, who was last seen in Detroit for the national tour of A Bronx Tale, before she makes her return to the Fisher Theatre.
There are many iterations of Annie out there, is there one that really stood out to you?
Yeah, of course. The movie that they made with Carol Burnett was the iconic Annie for me, 100%. That was the Annie. But of course, in taking the part on myself and then researching it, and watching all of the different Hannigans, there’s a little bit from everybody that’s in our version. It’s very new, it’s very different. It’s deeply human and character driven. I feel so proud of the show that we’ve got here and I’m so excited to share it.
Annie has been around for generations, what does it mean to you to be traveling with this show across the country?
There’s a lot of reasons that the show keeps being produced. It’s a message of hope, it’s a message of stick to itiveness and a hunt for a better life – which Annie embodies. That’s deeply universal and we love to see the underdog come up to the top. That notion that if you keep on keeping on, things will get brighter. This is a multigenerational experience. We’ve got kids who are seeing their first show and parents who are seeing it maybe for the first time since they were a kid. We’ve got grandparents taking both other generations to it, so it becomes a whole family affair. It’s a beautiful time.
So in playing Miss Hannigan, what’s your favorite part of playing such an iconic character?
She’s a walking nightmare, I adore her. It’s an incredible part and what’s so astonishing about it is, especially in this era of musicals, there aren’t a lot of female parts written that are plot drivers. She’s on the hustle. She’s trying to get better and she’s in an awful situation. The character is not about giving depth to a male character, it’s not about getting a man. She’s totally driven in and of herself and that’s an extraordinary thing. It’s the first part I’ve played in a musical that passes the Bechdel test. You’ve got strong female characters from Annie, to Grace, to Hannigan, and that’s exciting. I’m honored to fill those shoes, fill those snakeskin pumps.
You get to travel and perform with all these different kids, what’s it like with all of these young actors?
Oh, my angels. I call them my chickens. I really hoped that when they cast the show that they would just cast a rabid bunch of little monsters. And they really did that. These girls are so incredible, so fierce. They’re so smart and intuitive and funny. Oh, my god it’s such a delight. They bring this beautiful energy to the show and the tour life experience where they’re just so excited to be there. On top of doing eight shows a week, these kids are doing school four hours a day and they show up to the theater every night, no matter how many hours we’ve been on the bus, just delighted to do the show. It’s a beautiful reminder of what theater can be.
Have you ever accidentally scared any of your co-stars?
When we started rehearsal, I wanted to be very clear with the girls. I came down on a knee, because I’m quite tall, and I brought them around and I said, “Listen, we’re going to be doing some very scary stuff on stage. We want the audience to be scared, but that does not mean that it should be scary for you. If at any moment you are afraid or you don’t feel comfortable, you stay stop. We will pause, we will go back and we will make sure everyone feels safe. We want this to be safe and fun for us and scary for the audience.” That was my goal going in and I think we’ve really developed a beautiful rapport. I just feel so grateful to work with them because they’re such fun.
It sounds like the cast has developed this family mentality to support each other.
Tour life does that to you and we’re together through thick and thin. We travel all day, we do the show all night. We’re away from our homes and our family so you become that for each other. These kids have just been an extraordinary part of that experience. I feel so much love for the whole company and a lot of gratitude for the work that everybody’s putting in. Our crew works tirelessly from top to bottom. We have a killer team and I’m just glad to be a part of it.
Do you think Miss Hannigan is misunderstood?
Oh, my god, yes. When we started putting this together, our director, Jen Thompson, who was an original Pepper on Broadway, was very clear from the beginning that we wanted Hannigan to be very real and very human. Sometimes she falls into caricature, and that doesn’t mean she’s not funny, but she’s real, she’s scary and she’s miserable. She’s trapped, you know? There have been several responses where people were like, “I felt for Hannigan. I have never felt that. I saw her plight.” She’s trapped in dead end government job in the Great Depression, just miserable stuff. I think that’s a really relatable place to be so I hope that my Hannigan is, perhaps, a little more accessible.
Outside of the show, you’re also in bands. How do you fit that with your touring schedule?
We’re on hiatus right now because I’m away, but I’m really excited to get back to New York for the summer and get back on stage and get back to my rock blues folk roots. Our albums on Spotify are doing really well and we’re really proud and honored about what we were able to make. If you’re curious about the West Side Waltz band, the album Love & Fears is everywhere you stream music, check us out.
Is there anything you’ve learned from being in a band that you can apply to Annie?
Absolutely, there’s a ton of crossover. “Little Girls” is one of the most iconic musical theater Broadway belters songs. There’s a lot of rock and roll in that song. And there’s other vocal traits, especially on “Easy Street.” They wanted some stank. It still comes through the filter of Martin Charnin, but it’s definitely my version.
If you could sing someone else’s song in the show, who would it be?
I kind of think I have the best two songs. I really do. I think “Little Girls” and “Easy Street” are just bangers and I’m so grateful to sing them.
Annie runs at the Fisher Theatre from April 25 to 30 with a run time of 2 hours and 40 minutes. For showtimes and tickets, visit BroadwayinDetroit.com.