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'Annie' provides breakout role for 10-year-old star

Annie is no longer a stranger to 10-year-old Issie Swickle. The national tour, now in its 10th month, is her first but talking with her, she sounds like a seasoned professional.

"I don't get nervous anymore," Issie said during a phone interview, "I have done the show so many times so it's a lot easier to not get nervous."

Issie first caught the acting bug after attending Broadway Kids Studio camp in her hometown of Davie, Fla. She soon found herself with an agent and auditioning in New York City for the touring production of "Annie."

"It's really cool getting to play Annie. It's an iconic role and it can be hard to portray," Issie said. "So it is just such an honor and a really big deal for me."

After a haircut, which included a donation to locks of love, and dye job, Issie found herself feeling more like the iconic redhead. "Once you get the look, it really comes together and you start to feel like the character," Issie said. "It just made me feel like I was Annie. I really see myself in the character now. She is very optimistic, and she is always looking on the bright side. She is just spunky and hopeful."

Talking with Issie's mother Dana Swickle, it becomes clear her daughter shares the same determined streak as the character she portrays.

"If she wants something, she sets her sight on it and she does it. And I think you have to be to be doing what these girls are doing at this age," Swickle said. "You have to love what you do but also want to be able to do it all the time."

Outside of starring in a national tour, Issie is in many ways a typical girl who enjoys theater and rollerblading.

"She's not always in performance mode," Swickle said. "She's one of those kids who really just likes to go about her business, do her show, and then once the show is done it's done."

A perk to working on a national tour has been the opportunity to see the country when she's not working, including the upcoming stop in Hershey.

"I am really excited to come to Hershey. I can't wait to go to Hersheypark," Issie said.

Also saying an added bonus was having the chance to work with her canine costar Macy, who portrays Annie's mutt sidekick Sandy.

"I just really love animals and getting to work with them just keeps me from missing my own pet."

"Annie" tells the story of a young Depression-era orphan whose life takes a turn when she is taken in by billionaire Oliver (Daddy) Warbucks. The show known for its heart and positive message first took the stage in the 1977 Tony Award winning production and has since been reincarnated multiple times both on stage and on screen.

The national tour will arrive July 21 at the Hershey Theatre for eight shows running through July 26. The tour, which started last September, boasts a 25-member company lead by Gilgamesh Taggett as Oliver Warkbucks, Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan, and Issie as the title character. Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin and choreographed by Liza Gennaro, the production promises to be a new incarnation of the original.

"People should come see the show because it's a very fun and optimistic show," said Issie, "I think audiences will enjoy all the songs and dances, but I really think they will like the cast of girls. They are all really different but all super fun."