With double cast, 2 girls bond over portraying title role in ‘Annie’

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Hank Rischar and Adelle Spiess rehearse a scene from "Annie" on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, at Theatre Lawrence. Rischar plays the role of Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks and Spiess is one of two girls who plays the role of Annie.

Adelle Spiess and Vivi Riffel knew each other before this month, but now the two 11-year-olds are much closer friends, they said recently.

After all, it’s easy to get to know someone when you’re both playing the same iconic musical theater role. Spiess and Riffel both play the title role in Theatre Lawrence’s production of “Annie.”

“Being and sharing the same role has made us friends,” Spiess said. “It’s really fun because someone has your back and makes it less stressful.”

“They are the only one that knows what you are going through,” Riffel added.

The two girls both got the part of the spunky, curly-haired orphan because both were wonderful actors and director Doug Weaver couldn’t choose just one, he said.

But he didn’t stop there. Weaver chose to double cast all of the other orphans, as well, because there was so much good talent in the area. The roles were split between a “pink cast,” which stars Spiess, and a “purple cast,” which stars Riffel, and are noted on the Theatre Lawrence website.

“We saw so many wonderful kids, we thought, ‘Let’s give 14 of them a chance, rather than just seven,'” Weaver said. “It gives more kids a chance to work in a really wonderful environment with a great show.”

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Adelle Spiess rehearses a scene from “Annie” with other cast members on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, at Theatre Lawrence. Spiess plays the role of Annie.

“Annie” tells the story of an orphan who is looking for her birth parents. She is taken in by Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, a billionaire, who helps her search for her parents, only to find that many people are trying to scam him out of a reward he offered in the search.

The show is also known for classic musical numbers like “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow.”

“It has great tunes; fun, singable melodies; and a wonderfully hopeful message, which is not much of the idea anymore,” Weaver said. “But Annie does have to overcome things in order to get there. It’s not all given to her.”

Playing the lead in such an iconic musical is a dream come true for Spiess and Riffel. It’s the first lead role for each of them.

“I’ve been dreaming to be Annie my whole life,” Riffel said. “It’s been my dream role, so it’s really cool to get to do it.”

Spiess said she hopes to pursue theater as a profession when she gets older.

“(‘Annie’) really made me feel good about it and realize, ‘OK, maybe I can do it,'” she said.

Amanda Clark, who is portraying Ms. Hannigan, said she understands the girls’ feelings. She said she has dreamed of portraying Ms. Hannigan, who is the head of the orphanage and hates children, since she was a child.

Additionally, she gets to experience the iconic musical with her daughter Caroline Bork, who is portraying one of the orphans in the pink cast.

“There was a lot of basement acting of Ms. Hannigan,” Clark said of her childhood. “I think this is a show that kids grow up acting out in their living room. It’s really fun for my daughter and I to be able to do it.”

She said she’s creating memories with her daughter in a show that shares a timeless message of positivity, which is perfect for the holiday season.

“It just brings a smile to your face,” she said. “(‘Annie’ is) so positive, and we could all use that these days.”

photo by: Ashley Hocking

The cast of “Annie” rehearses a scene on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, at Theatre Lawrence.

While many of the performers have previously acted in Theatre Lawrence productions, one major role is filled by a man who hasn’t acted since he was in high school in 1993. Hank Rischar, who is a middle school math teacher in the Lawrence school district, will be portraying Warbucks.

Rischar was nervous to audition and he does not believe there are many roles left for him in stage productions, “being a hulking bald man.”

“I have a lot of big shoes to fill,” Rischar said, noting the many people who have played the role of Warbucks. “I’m just trying my best to fill the shoes they set and bring my own spin on it as well.”

Getting back into acting after such a long time away from it has been a struggle on its own, Rischar said. But he’s having a great time.

“It’s just been one of the most wonderful experiences of my adult life,” he said. “The kids, especially, are just wonderful.”

The production at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive, opens 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and runs each weekend with matinees and evening performances until Dec. 16. Tickets cost $26.99.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.