Review: ANNIE at Rochester Broadway Theatre League

What did our critic think of ANNIE at Rochester Broadway Theatre League?

By: Dec. 14, 2023
Review: ANNIE at Rochester Broadway Theatre League
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Though it’s not necessarily a Christmas show in the way that “A Christmas Carol” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” are, “Annie” captures many of the essential elements of the Christmas season: friendship, love, optimism, and hope for the future. There is possibly no more prominent feel-good story than “Annie”, and the touring production currently on stage at Rochester’s West Herr Auditorium Theatre is, as you would expect, heartwarming from top to bottom.

“Annie”, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and a book by Thomas Meehan, is based on the 1924 comic strip Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray. The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years. It tells the classic story of a young orphan girl named Annie (Rainey Trevino). She lives in a tough orphanage run by the mean Miss Hannigan (Stefanie Londino) during the Great Depression. Despite her circumstances, Annie remains optimistic and dreams of finding her parents. One day, billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Christopher Swan) invites Annie to spend Christmas at his mansion, and a bond develops between them. With the help of her friends, Annie embarks on a journey to find her real parents and, in the process, brings hope and happiness to the lives of those around her.

Nailing the period specificity of “Annie” is so critical in telling this story in the right way. At its core, “Annie” is about the tension between the title character’s soaring optimism and the relentless despair of the Great Depression. And sure, the authors awkwardly squeeze in a few too many period references (Charlie Chaplin, Louis Brandeis, etc.) to ensure the audience knows it takes place during the 1930s, but it’s not a story that can be easily removed from that time in American history (for evidence, see the 2014 film adaption that tried modernizing the setting). I say all of this because this touring production of “Annie” gets these elements exactly right; everything from the Hoovervilles, to the orphanage, to Mark Woodard’s portrayal of FDR transports the audience back to this pivotal time in 20th century America.

Also standing out in this touring “Annie” is the lush pit orchestra, which had me fooled into thinking this was a full 30-piece ensemble until looking at the playbill and seeing the lineup of only 10 musicians! A major kudos to Dan DeLange for this production’s orchestrations; a truly impressive bit of musical tom-foolery.

And of course, the cast of this touring “Annie” excels, led by Trevino and Swan. Trevino’s Annie is everything you want this timeless character to be; spunky, energetic, warm, and heartstring-pulling. Swan’s Oliver Warbucks is equally skilled in playing the grumpy curmudgeon and the soft, kind-hearted father figure. Most importantly, they have seamless onstage chemistry.

The touring production of “Annie” currently on stage with the Rochester Broadway Theatre League is a nostalgic, heartwarming production perfectly befitting the Christmas Season. It’s playing until December 17th, for tickets and more information click here.


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