BWW Interviews: Chatting Villains of ANNIE with Real-Life Couple Louise Pitre and Joe Matheson
It's an exciting holiday theatre season in Toronto, with lots of great options for children and grown ups alike! One option which is bound to appeal to people of all ages is the classic tale of ANNIE - being presented by Young People's Theatre and starring newcomer Jenny Weisz in the iconic role.
You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't know the story of Annie (or it's timeless tunes such as 'Tomorrow', 'Hard Knock Life' and 'Maybe') but it's been a long time since Toronto had a professional production on stage in the city.
Annie tells the story of a precocious little redheaded orphan and her dog, Sandy, who escape the orphanage where they were residing (under the villainous Miss Hannigan) in order to go off in search of her parents. She ends up encountering an eccentric billionaire and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt along the way, as well as manages to get involved in all kinds of scrappy situations.
Of course, no version of Annie is complete without the villainous Miss Hannigan and Rooster - the characters who stand between Annie and her future happiness. In this new production, they're played by real life husband and wife Louise Pitre and Joe Matheson - who are teaming up to sink their teeth into the despicable (yet very funny) duo. Louise spoke with BWW about playing the villain, her experiences with Young People's Theatre and the enduring power of Annie:
First off, congratulations on what has been a very successful and exciting year! How does it feel to be wrapping up 2013 by performing with your husband in Annie?
LP: It's a rare treat to be in a show together and to be doing it in Toronto. Feels perfect!
JM: This is kind of the perfect ending for the last stretch - we've both been very busy and it's all been good stuff but it has meant a lot of time apart or on very different schedules. To be performing in Toronto, together, a five minute walk from our condo? That's about as good as it gets!
In your show 'On the Rocks' you talk about how your YPT production of a Year with Frog and Toad was one of your favourite roles. Are you hoping for a similar experience with Annie? How do you feel about being a villain this time?
LP: I don't think this show and what I do in it will be able to be a similar experience. Frog and Toad was special - a tender little gem of a piece. I love being a villain! It's fun to be nasty - surprisingly so!
You've got a great up and coming newcomer to work with in Jenny Weisz - what has it been like rehearsing with her? Have you been able to give her any helpful advice on this business?
LP: She's wonderful and so professional. We've talked about the value of joining equity and many other aspects of the business. She has her feet on the ground and is very together. I'm sure she will have a fantastic career.
You guys have collaborated before - what excites you the most about getting to play opposite each other in Annie? Any challenges you perceive?
LP: No challenges! We work well together and I'm most excited to get to be villains together. That's a first for us!
JM: When we've collaborated in the past there has always been some other element involved: we're writing the show or producing it or something. This time we just get to do the show. It's a fun, crazy story with some wacky characters. We've played wartime lovers, mother and son: being an evil brother and sister lets us bring out our inner evil twins a little!
Can we expect any changes to the treasured story and these well known characters with you two in the roles?
LP: Well I can't speak for Joe but I think my Hannigan is particularly nasty. My goal is to have the kids boo me when I come out to take my bow. We shall see...
JM: I don't think so. Someone might play these characters a little more evil, or a little more goofy, or a little more plain dumb. But the story is still the story, and we're still the bad guys. And we get it in the end. What more could you ask for? We try to bring a little more 'evil' to the roles, which Allan McInnis wanted. The best villains are always just a little bit truly scary.
Do you recall your first ever little orphan Annie theatrical experience? What is it about the show that you think contributes to its enduring and almost timeless qualities?
LP: I saw the show for the first time in Akron, Ohio while we were still living in New York. I think it was 2003 or 2004 and Joe was playing Rooster in the production. I saw the Broadway production last year in New York and loved it. All anybody wants in this world is to be loved, to belong. That's what this show is about for Annie, Daddy Warbucks and even Miss Hannigan and Rooster.
JM: I didn't know a lot about musical theatre growing up, and got into it in my mid-twenties. So my first Annie experience was doing the show at Theatre Aquarius. We had a ten-year-old Annie in her first professional show, and on opening night Sandy (the dog) bolted. No dog for 'Tomorrow.' The conductor wanted to wait for... something - but Ashley Taylor, who played Annie, just launched into the song dragging the whole orchestra with her. I remember thinking, "She IS Annie." We've been great friends ever since.
What is your favourite Annie tune and why?
LP: Maybe. I've always loved that song. It breaks my heart. The ultimate longing. The beautiful, charming childish description of what the perfect couple would be doing - she playing the piano, straightening his tie, stirring his coffee, reading. And of course the killer line - they collect things like ashtrays and art!
JM: 'Maybe.' Because a show about sunshines and lollipops wouldn't last this long. Annie has suffered, and she recognizes her heartache and admits to it. But that isn't going to stop her from hoping.
That's the magic of this show: it doesn't say "We'll all live happily ever after" or "Just be positive and everything will work out." It says, "Life is what it is, and the world is what it is: believe that there is good and you will find it, even if it's not where you thought you would."
It's not about winning, it's about trying. It's about living.
Finally, will adults enjoy Annie just as much as children?
LP: Yes! Most definitely!!! I bet adults will appreciate some of the humour even more than the kids! It's the perfect all around show for the whole family.
JM: Only if they have a heart.
When and Where?
Young People's Theatre presents ANNIE
On stage Nov 11th-Dec 29th, 2013
Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at or online at http://www.youngpeoplestheatre.ca/shows-tickets/annie/