Londonite part of national touring ‘Annie’ cast

Connor Simpson of London is performing in the national touring production of the musical, “Annie.”
Connor Simpson of London is performing in the national touring production of the musical, “Annie.”

(Posted Jan. 15, 2016)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

One of Madison County’s own is making a name for himself on the national stage.

Connor Simpson is among the newest members of the cast of “Annie,” a new incarnation of the 1977 Tony Award-winning original. Now in its second year, the touring production is bringing the musical story of the lovable little orphan to all corners of the United States, including Springfield, Ohio, in February.

“It’s been the perfect chain reaction of experiences that has led me to this point, and I’m so grateful to be here,” Simpson said of what he deems to be the best opportunity to date in his budding acting career.

Growing up in London, Simpson said he caught the theater bug after seeing a production of “The Phantom of the Opera” in Dayton with his family. He was about 8 years old at the time.

“That’s my first memory of thinking, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do,’ ” he said.

He participated in Children’s Theater in Springfield during summers between school years at St. Patrick School. He also was active in “Kids on Broadway” in Columbus as a middle schooler. For his high school years, he attended St. Charles Preparatory School in Bexley, where he started to hone his acting chops under the direction of the school’s drama teacher, a professional actor.

Simpson graduated from St. Charles in 2010 and earned a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in musical theater from Kent State University in 2014.

“I’ve been very lucky in the opportu-nities I’ve had since I finished college,” he said.

First, Simpson landed a spot with the 2014 summer repertory cast at Porthouse Theatre in Cleveland where he performed in shows including “My Fair Lady.” Additionally, the venue staged readings of his original musical, “Minnie Quay,” based on a true story about lost love in 1870s Michigan. Simpson wrote the music and lyrics and co-wrote the script.

Next, he secured a job performing at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., for the theme park’s 2014 Christmas season.

It was at a unified audition in Memphis, Tenn., in February 2015 that the seeds were planted for his eventual selection for “Annie.” Unified auditions allow aspiring actors to present themselves in one place to a large group of casting directors and representatives from theater companies, theme parks, cruise ships and the like.

“From the unified audition, I was asked to audition for ‘Annie’ in New York in March, but when I didn’t hear back from them after that audition, I took a job with a dinner theater in Denali, Alaska,” Simpson said.

The Denali job, associated with Princess Cruise Lines, stretched from late April to mid-September of last year. When Simpson returned home, he was asked to audition once again for “Annie” in New York City.

“That was in October and I landed the part,” he said.

Simpson plays many parts with the production, including: Mr. Bindles, the laundry man at the orphanage; a Hooverville resident; a dog catcher; a servant in the Warbucks mansion; Wacky, the ventriloquist dummy in the radio scene; and Louis Howe, FDR’s chief of staff.

He began rehearsals in early December while the cast was performing in Buffalo, N.Y. He rehearsed for the first time under the show’s director, Martin Charnin, the original lyricist and director for “Annie,” in Brooklyn in mid-December.

“To be in a national traveling production with the original Broadway director and creator of the show…the person who has been there since its inception…gives you so much insight into the piece,” Simpson said.

A few more rehearsals later, Simpson took the stage on Dec. 29 in Providence, R.I., for his first performance of “Annie” before an audience.

“Full lights, full costumes, full house—probably the biggest house I’ve ever played to—and with the director in the house, the pressure was amped up,” Simpson said. “But after the first three shows, I knew I was going to be OK…and the nerves went away.”

Since then, Simpson has traveled and performed with the company in Augusta, Ga., Roanoke, Va., Lexington, Ky., and Cleveland, Ohio. Many more stops are yet to come.

“To visit so many places is checking off a box of things I wanted to do in life—to see the U.S.,” he said.

Simpson is contracted with “Annie” for six months, taking him through the cur-rent run date of May 22. The production company is considering extending the run for another 12 months beyond that.

“It’s been surreal. The returning cast members are nothing but incredibly gracious and great to work with. I’ve been remarkably fortunate,” Simpson said.

Upcoming shows

• Feb. 10—Clark State Performing Arts Center, Springfield, 7:30 p.m.

• Feb. 25—Kent State Auditorium in New Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Go to for a full schedule of show dates and ticket information.

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