BWW Review: ANNIE at Ralston Community Theatre is Family Fun
One of the most well known musicals of the 20th century is undoubtedly ANNIE.
ANNIE, based on the comic strip, "Little Orphan Annie" was developed into an award winning musical by Thomas Meehan (book), Charles Strouse (music) and Martin Charnin (lyrics.) It ran on Broadway from 1977 to 1983 and won a slew of Tony Awards in 1977 for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book and several others.
I'm not even going to address the plot, because virtually anyone alive in this century is familiar with the tale of the red headed orphan Annie searching for her parents and being taken in by the billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Ralston Community Theatre took on this Family show with its sizable cast, most of whom are female. ---And a great many of whom are related. You might say that this is a Family-Fun-For-The-Whole-Family show.
There's Annie herself, Sophie Anderson. Sophie is the daughter of Tim Anderson, who plays Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks. There's Sarah Ebke (Miss Hannigan) married to the Music Director, Chris Ebke, and sister-in-law to David Ebke (President Franklin Roosevelt). Chris and David Ebke's parents, Steve and Debi, play Drake and Mrs. Greer. Add in the Lattas: Meg Latta on keyboard, Chloe (orphan), Chris and Caleb (ensemble); the Fitzgerald sisters: Brynn (Molly) and Emily (orphan); the Hoge sisters: Eliah (orphan July) and GeGe (orphan Kate); and the Kitchens: Maureen (Connie Boylan) and her daughter, Lucy (orphan.)
No wonder this feels like family!
The audience was totally wrapped up in the tomfoolery on stage. You could sense the love. You could hear the laughs. You could feel the enthusiastic applause.
Sarah Ebke's portrayal of Miss Hannigan's shenanigans is all that you could want from comedy. She looks silly. She acts ridiculous. She is a hoot. She presents an almost cartoonish characterization of the woman you love to hate. Equally funny is Brynn Fitzgerald as Molly, the precocious youngest orphan who tests Miss Hannigan's limits with her antics. Stuck in a bucket? Check. Mockery of Miss Hannigan's stumbling walk? Check. Fitzgerald is 100 percent adorable.
Sophia Anderson is a winsome Annie with a big voice to match that of her real life Daddy Warbucks, Tim Anderson. Both are great additions to the show, especially since their familial affection permeates their actions.
Anna Perilo's polished mannerisms and voice combine to make her an ideal billionaire's assistant, Grace Farrell.
Two of my favorite characters, the unscrupulous Rooster (Jon Flower) and his paramour Lily St Regis (Megan Kelly), are not only funny, they are fun. Flower's and Kelly's moves are about as slippery as their characters. Joined by Sarah Ebke, they nail my favorite tune from this show, "Easy Street."
These and the other members of the cast work well together under the direction of Todd Uhrmacher and the imaginative choreography of Debbie Massey-Schneweis. Chris Ebke leads a fine orchestra with a particularly nice overture. He also can be credited with large choral numbers that are really good. "Hard Knock Life" is big, energetic and satisfying. The homeless scene with "Hooverville" is rich in its poverty and nicely embellished by Alyssa Riha's lovely solo. Of course, everyone loves "Tomorrow" and it becomes doubly fun when Roosevelt's Cabinet joins in.
I need to shout out to David Ebke for his portrayal of FDR. With equal parts truth and silliness, David presents a great caricature of the president who framed the New Deal.
Although I am not a fan of Annie's red wig, I did love the costumes for the orphans and the servants. The muted colors for the orphans were drab, but not dreary. The colors blended beautifully, yet maintained individuality. The servant's uniforms in soft olive, white, gray and black were subdued, but classic. Costume Designer Leah Skorupa-Mezger did an excellent job adding visually appealing color and texture to the show.
ANNIE is a family favorite. Take yours to see it. Have a little fun.
ANNIE opened July 7th and will run through July 22nd.
Photo Credit: Mark Wegener