BWW Reviews: ANNIE at Denver Center
Even before walking into a production of Annie, you've probably formed a pretty strong opinion of the gingery little orphan.
She's been around since her musical mishaps were modern news. After the launch of the comic strip Little Orphan Annie in the 1930s, it took a few decades for the show to branch out to Broadway in 1977. Since then, several critically diverse movies have come along as well. The red-headed kiddo (and her sandy dog, too) are pretty much a staple in American culture.
The tour of the musical's latest revival, currently taking residence at the Denver Center's Buell Theatre, is a nice reminder of that. The show is nothing flashy, and it doesn't try to be any more than it is. But if you already don't love Annie, this production won't change your mind.
The show follows Annie's journey from a hard-knock NYC orphanage to a visit with billionaire Oliver Warbucks, who quickly decides he'd like to adopt her. When Annie is still keen on finding her parents, Warbucks funds a search to locate them. The story also touches on the plight of the America's unstable political system in the 1930s.
Annie is played by Issie Swickle, who makes a strong debut as the little leading lady. Her voice is solidly charismatic and well developed for her age, but her acting didn't explode with the same charisma as her vocals. I could hear the gusto in her lines, but physically I barely felt a thing. The little girls are cute, but (blame it on the show's style), their acting is a little forced. You'll either find them adorable or exhausting.
Denver native Lynn Andrews is an exhilarating Miss Hannigan. She brings a carefree wittiness to the role, freshening up the overplayed governess of the orphanage. Her brother Rooster (Garrett Deagon) is very good at being a sleazeball while convincingly switching up his game to con the billionaire. Same goes for Lucy Werner's Lily.
Oliver Warbucks, played by Gilgamesh Taggett, isn't immediately harsh in the role, making the character's arc is little weak. Taggett does a nice job humanizing the billionaire, making him down-to-earth and soft toward Annie. His assistant, Grace Farrell, is played beautifully by Ashley Edler.
The ensemble, smaller than you're used to in a community production, is a delight, effortlessly capturing several roles throughout the production. Even the dog, Sandy, alternatingly played by Annie veterans Macy and Sunny, can't help but make you grin.
If you want to introduce your kids to Annie, I'd suggest taking them to this version...and maybe just skip over that disasterful 2014 movie remake.
Annie plays the Buell Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through May 10. Tickets are available at www.DenverCenter.org or by calling (303)893-4100.
Photos by Joan Marcus