Leapin’ Lizards! It’s Kelli Foster Warder!

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Choreographer Kelli Foster Warder comes back to The 5th after choreographing the hit musical Ragtime in 2017 and we could not be more excited to work with her again. We reached out to Kelli to learn more about her experience and her approach to choreographing Annie for The 5th Avenue Theatre.

What is your personal experience with Annie? (Were you ever in it? Did you grow up with the movie? Have you ever choreographed it before?)
I grew up a dancer. I loved music and everything dance. I am of an age that saw that first movie and it was everything. I remember seeing it in the theaters. I fell 100% in love with Ann Reinking and her fabulous dancing. Her physicality told the story and it has stayed with me.

What do you think makes Annie such a timeless and beloved story?
Annie wants what everyone wants. A home. To feel safe and loved and that she matters. We all relate to that regardless of our home life. Annie also has a faith that her dreams will come true and she allows that to drive her. Her relentless belief in something good makes her brave. We all want to be like that. Daddy Warbucks actually is the same – he realizes that he too wants to feel loved and that he matters. And he also is brave. Together they remind us that there is hope, even in the face of struggle, there is good. We need that now more than ever.

The songs in Annie are truly iconic. How do you approach creating something that will satisfy the desires of the audience while still creating something fresh and authentic?
I think it is very important to honor what has come before and to meet an audiences expectations. They can expect to see dancing orphans with buckets and energy! I also hope to surprise them with how we use everyone’s physicality to amplify the emotions that the characters are experiencing.

We’ve had such thrilling feedback about the casting for this show. What excites you about this cast?
Each wonderful kid that came in for our orphans call was powerful and unique and strong and talented. We could have cast the show over and over! What I love about the team we have assembled is that any and everyone will be able to see themselves in this show. This show looks like us – all of us – because this is a story for everyone!

This production is a bit special in that it there is an all female creative team (director, choreographer, music director). Is that exciting to you? Do you think that all-female energy brings anything special this production?
Billie will lead this project with strength and heart and she has talent with no limits. She understands actors, she believes in the power of this story and I am thankful to be sitting beside her. With a young girl at the center of this story, it is special that that the creatives behind the table have walked in similar shoes. I look forward to the day that ‘all-female creative team’ isn’t an exception but instead, a norm. This team can tell many stories and I am excited to be a part of telling this one!

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