With today’s depressing headlines – High Unemployment, Homelessness, Hurricanes and War – it’s a gosh darn shame that tickets to the oh so optimistic, tuneful and mostly delightful revival of ANNIE cost so gosh darn much. It’s truly a hard knock life when kids can’t afford to see this winning show.
Thirty five years ago ANNIE written by the creative team of Thomas Meehan (Book) Charles Strouse (Music) and Martin Charnin (Lyrics) was a huge hit and now it has been given a fresh facelift with a brand new eleven year old moppet with a crop of red ringlets and a clarion voice going by the name of Lilla Crawford who is spreading her sunshine throughout the Palace Theatre where an ageless ANNIE directed by James Lapine with his keen eye for detail is now performing eight times a week.
She is adorable. She is spunky and confident and a natural born actress. She is a role model for all her fellow orphans with her never giving up in her attempt to find her parents who left her at the orphanage to be cared by Miss Hannigan (Katie Finneran) a woman who is fond of men and liquor but who can’t stand kids. It’s a Tony Award winning role if there ever was one.
And herein lies the “well almost” part of this review. Katie Finneran is unfortunately a disappointment. She has shown in the past how great a comedienne she can be but something is off here with her wildly exaggerated and off key performance. That being said the rest of the show with its jaunty and clever score does hit all the right notes.
Especially with Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks (a sensational handsome, virile Anthony Warlow) who has been imported from Australia with his incredible voice. He and Annie share a very special relationship in the show. A Billionaire who chooses her to spend two weeks with him over the Christmas holiday to “improve his public image” finds himself falling hard for the tyke and hoping deep down that her parents do not show up to collect the 50,000 dollar reward he has offered so that he can adopt her. Their scenes together would make Scrooge have a change of heart. They are perfect together and their true affection for each other floods over the footlights.
And then there is, of course, Annie’s dog Sandy played by Sunny a rescue dog with the most soulful eyes and a face that one immediately falls in love with who even gets to “howl along” during the final moments of the musical.
With the stylized choreography of Andy Blankenbuehler and the fantastic flowing sets by David Korins the show whizzes along briskly. The mansion of Mr. Warbucks is particularly amazing with its pop up story book rooms unfolding before our eyes. It’s magical. As are the N.Y.C. number and the toe tapping finale which are both superbly entertaining.
Vintage black and white newsreels are used to set the period and the costumes by Susan Hilferty follow suit.
Annie’s fellow orphans are delightful – although sound designer Brian Ronan might want to readjust his equipment so that they don’t sound so tinny.
Clarke Thorell as Rooster (Hannigan’s brother and partner in crime – along with Lily St. Regis – J. Elaine Marcos) do justice to “Easy Street” as they chart their way to easy money by pretending to be Annie’s long lost parents.
As Mr. Warbuck’s secretary Grace, Brynn O’Malley looks and sings like a dream making the most of a necessary but uneventful role. And as F.D.R. Merwin Foard wheel chair bound with leg braces (nice touch) milks the role for all its worth and his rallying of his cabinet members to sing the most famous of all Annie’s songs “Tomorrow” makes it sound like it is part of his “New Deal”.
This just in from Sandy – Arf! Arf arf arf! Arf ! Arf! : ANNIE really should be made affordable for the many that won’t be able to see this delightful and inspiring show because of its prohibitively high cost of admission. Maybe its time for its authors to give back some of the fortune they’ve made for the less unfortunate to attend. Just a thought. Arf! Arf! Don’t mean to bite that hand that feeds me…
www.AnnieTheMusical.com Photos: Joan Marcus
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