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ANNIE

Directed by Kevin Bowers
Starring Lauren Ferraro, Reid Spencer, Diane Hollingsworth, and Linda Racine

A young orphan is goes to a loving family, while the orphanage director schemes to get the family's money.

 

 

4 stars

July 11th, 2001

 
   

Wonderfully entertaining, and excellently acted, especially by the children.  This production has a lot of talent, and uses it to the fullest.

The production opens with the children, and follows the movie version almost all the way to the end.  It is unfortunate that we don't see the children more often.  These girls portrayed the overworked orphans perfectly, and sang even better than the adults did.  When acting out and stomping their hands and feet during Hard Knock Life, I was utterly amazed.  Unfortunately, we don't see them again until the second act, when they listen to the radio and do a better job singing Fully Dressed than the radio announcer did.  And then they appear for Christmas at the end, and join the ensemble for the final song.

The other knockout in this production was the singer who portrayed a new arrival in New York, joining in with Annie and Warbucks to NYC.  My jaw dropped; her voice was so beautiful, her range incredible, and I can't believe she was wasted in her other role as a servant (as I believe it was).  

And of course, there was Annie.  Too old for thirteen, I think, but she did a marvelous job of it.  She easily showed that her character was a caring, life-loving, and high-spirited girl, just waiting for her parents to pick her up again.  And she acts opposite Miss Hannigan with appropriate reactions, too.  But sometimes I felt that she was just too cheerful.  The big joyous smile, even when it turned to a big pout, felt like overacting.  

And that was something I didn't really like about this production.  Warbucks seemed condescending, but that is to be expected, as he is a very rich man in a very poor world.  He reminded me of John Lithgow, however, and in this kind of a show, that's not really a good thing.  His servants were supposed to overact; it was obvious from their expressions and exaggerated motions.  I wish they would have been more subtle.  But sometimes it was funny.  

The rest of the adults were pretty good, too.  Miss Hannigan did a good job of being an exasperated drunk!  And her brother seemed very slimy, which he was.  

As I mentioned, the production follows the movie very well, with Annie comforting little Molly in bed, through her escape through the laundry, her wandering through New York, and her capture by police, but without the dog (probably a good thing for a small stage -and it wasn't needed).  When Annie is brought back, Miss Hannigan receives a visitor looking for an orphan for a week to spend Christmas with Mr. Warbucks.  The reaction when he finds out that Annie is a girl instead of a boy is terrific.  And the way his staff manipulates him into taking Annie to the theatre (after which they sing NYC) is also nicely done.  And we can actually see, in the small time devoted to it, how Annie turns Mr. Warbucks to her side, and why he becomes nervous when he decides to ask her to be his daughter (it almost seems like a proposal!).

As the second act begins, Annie has refused Warbucks' offer because she believes her own parents will come for her (thirteen years later!).  Warbucks offers the reward for her parents, and Annie sings on the radio.  The look of Warbucks' face when he is asked to read a radio ad is just hilarious.  He does it with such seriousness, not quite understanding what he is doing!  As his staff weeds out the hundreds of people claiming to be Annie's foster parents, Annie and Warbucks go to Washington D.C. to advise the President.  Although it's pretty funny to see the two of them advising the US President on internal matters (and Annie infecting him with her song), not to mention his aides trying to sing, I am not really sure why Roosevelt was included here.  Perhaps it was to say that the world is going to be a better place soon, because we have the New Deal coming on, whereas the street people were cursing the previous President and the gloomy way of life in the first act.  

As they arrive back, Miss Hannigan's brother arrives, disguised, with a fake locket, that he claims fits with the one Annie wears around her neck.  Annie is happy and saddened to find her "real" parents, but decides to go with them to a farm in New Jersey.  She stays one last night with Warbucks, however, and the President arrives for Christmas Eve, too!  The President's men discover that Annie's parents died years ago, and they catch Miss Hannigan and her brother (and his girlfriend) red-handed.  It was a nice ending for the stage, where they could not have a car chase or a bridge scene, as in the movie.  And it was not as gloomy or life-threatening as in the movie, which I think was better.

The sets were well-designed, too.  Warbucks' home was beautifully done, and the rotating set pieces depicting the street people and inside the orphanage were really nice to look at.  The costumes were perfectly appropriate, showing the rich look of Warbucks and his staff, and the out-of-luck style of the orphans and street people.  

While some of the actors overacted, most were terrific, especially the orphan children.  Combine that with singing voices that kept me gasping in their beauty, and the set decoration and costumes, and we have a real winner of a production.

 
   

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