“You’re never fully dressed without a smile,” so don your duds, grab your family, and tap on down to the Athens Theatre in DeLand to celebrate the season with a redheaded optimist who is sure to turn your gift-buying stressy frown upside down!

We invite you to our grand old theater, where the halls are decked, the trees are trimmed, and the stage is set for a little orphan to win over the hearts of a billionaire bachelor and audiences alike.

That’s right! Annie, the world’s best-loved family musical, is opening just in time for the holidays.

This little redhead began spreading joy 95 years ago when she first appeared in Harold Gray’s comic strip Little Orphan Annie in the Daily News. Annie captured the spirit of the time and the hearts of everyone, connecting to everyday Americans during a time when people needed hope and an independent spirit.

In 1930, Little Orphan Annie was among the first comic strips adapted for radio — running for almost 10 years and gaining nearly 6 million followers. But her adventures were not even close to being over.

Numerous generations of moviegoers also had chances to fall in love with the little optimist. Annie first appeared on the silver screen in 1932, then in three famously cast films: in 1982, with Carol Burnett, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters, Albert Finney, Ann Reinking, and Aileen Quinn as Annie; in 1999, with Kathy Bates, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Audra McDonald, and Alicia Morton; and most recently in 2014, with an updated setting, starring Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale and Cameron Diaz.

Perhaps her most beloved incarnation, though, was in 1977, when the musical version of Annie hit Broadway and ran away, not only with an adorable mutt named Sandy, but with the Tony Award for Best Musical.

The show has had two Broadway revivals and countless productions in numerous countries, as well as nine national tours, and was the basis for the last three film versions. And now, the Athens Theatre is delighted to continue the tradition of spreading Annie’s spunk and spirit to new generations.

The play follows the plucky orphan Annie (played by Brianna Wunder), who escapes the clutches of her boozy orphanage matron, Miss Hannigan (Melissa Nay Ghandour), when billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Thomas Muniz) invites her to spend the holidays with him in his mansion.

After the little orphan wins over Warbucks’ hardened heart, he and Annie search for her birth parents — only to discover that in each other they had already found the family they had both dreamed about.

Annie brings a music-laden message of hope, joy and generosity to light up all our holidays and remind us that “the sun will come out tomorrow.”

The Athens Theatre invites you to join them at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, as we celebrate two opening performances with free champagne.

Performances run through Sunday, Dec. 22, though, so if you can’t make it to either opening, come to any of the other 15 performances, and treat your family to a festive night they will not forget!

The historic Athens Theatre is at 124 N. Florida Ave. in Downtown DeLand.

 

Showtimes and ticket information

Besides the two performances on Nov. 30, Annie will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, Friday, Dec. 6, Saturday, Dec. 7, Thursday, Dec. 12, Friday, Dec. 13, Saturday, Dec. 14, Thursday, Dec. 19, Friday, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 21, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, Sunday, Dec. 8, Saturday, Dec. 14, Sunday, Dec. 15, Saturday, Dec. 21, and Sunday, Dec. 22.

Tickets cost $29 for preferred reserved seating (rows A-E, center); $25 for adults; $23 for senior citizens; $11 for students and children; and $21 per person for groups of eight or more. A $3-per-ticket processing charge will be added to each purchase.

To purchase your tickets in advance or find out more information, visit the Athens Theatre website at www.AthensDeLand.com or call the box office at 386-736-1500. Box-office hours are 1-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, and one-and-a-half hours before live performances.

— Alexa A. Baldwin is director of marketing and operations for the Athens Theatre.