The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.
We're used to the story of little orphan Annie ending with the plucky red-head safe and sound in Oliver Warbucks' mansion, as his newly adopted daughter who's set for life. But in a new sequel show playing Edinburgh Festival Fringe, we learn that it hasn't been easy street in the years that followed.
No, I'm not talking about Annie Warbucks, Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge, or even Annie: A Royal Adventure!. This much-sequeled property has inspired a new solo show from LA-based comedian Katherine Bourne Taylor, Grown Up Orphan Annie. Defying the Depression-era timeline to cast an adult Annie in modern day, this show sees the optimistic heroine concerned about being labeled a nepo baby (it doesn't count because she and Warbucks aren't blood related, she says), being obsessed with Free Willy, and—because of course she is—hosting a podcast.
In fact, this Annie might just be the ultimate millennial, wearing her insecurities on her red capped sleeves. She really, really wants you to like her so she can get a squad and plan a post-show hang. But she also needs to re-build her notoriety and build up her "Fannies" (get it?). It turns out she and Warbucks collaborated on that smash-hit Broadway musical (Strouse, Charnin, and Meehan found shaking). But Warbucks cut her out of the royalties, and the rights—you will not hear "Tomorrow" in this Fringe show.
Annie is trying to find a new audience with her podcast, sponsored appropriately by Ovaltine (Taylor wisely pulls from the full gamut of Little Orphan Annie properties for references in this show). Things haven't truly taken off, but she's pretty sure what needs to happen to fix that. With Sandy sadly long gone, Annie needs a new sidekick. Spoiler alert: You will not be able to guess who she's selected for that job.
Grown Up Orphan Annie is zany and awkward in the best way, a clever and funny exploration of what happens to that eternal optimist when the sun just doesn't seem to want to come out. You might not think that the '30s comic strip and 1977 Broadway musical would provide a good vehicle to make some commentary on modern social media culture. But in Taylor's skilled and demented hands, it totally works.
Fringe is kind of the perfect venue for Taylor's somewhat frenzied take on the character. Performed in a university classroom, Annie's desperation is up-close and incredibly bleak.
And while you're not going to get any songs from the Broadway show, that doesn't mean there aren't songs. Gabriella Hirsch and Katie Greer have written Taylor a handful of original tunes for Grown Up Orphan Annie, each more ridiculous than the last. At one point, we learn that the late Warbucks secretly uploaded his entire consciousness to a hard drive (as you do) that will give Annie a chance to chat with Daddy again—cue the hilarious ear-worm "Hard Drive Daddy."
Part stand-up hour, part sketch comedy, Grown Up Orphan Annie is charming and funny, and surprisingly modern for the latest entry in a nearly century-old property. Taylor's point of view is fresh and entertaining, with the kind of humor that any theatre kid will almost assuredly be into—especially if they grew up watching and/or listening to Annie.
And I guess that means you can count me in as a newly minted Fannie.