BWW Review: It's Gonna Be Gone TOMORROW! ANNIE Brings Much Appreciated Optimism in Brief Stop at The McCallum
Some people roll their eyes when you mention the musical ANNIE. But, I tell you what. ANNIE never disappoints. It is not Sondheim. It is not Hamilton. It is not Pasek and Paul. But, the book is strong - the laughs are genuine and plenty. The lyrics are clever and the melodies as singable as they come. This production of ANNIE is far from perfect - but it is still a pretty perfect little musical! It is a "leave your troubles at the door" evening in the theatre and an optimistic antidote to any depression you might be feeling in this rather volatile political climate. There are just two performances remaining in the Coachella Valley, but it would be worth your time to drop whatever you're doing and snatch up the limited remaining tickets.
Tori Bates, as Annie, was blessed with a charismatic appeal that reaches to the back of the house. Her voice is that of a very talented child - well, because she is a very talented child - but may not meet the expectations of those looking for the stand-out pipes of an Andrea McArdle. She delivers her lyrics and dialogue with great aplomb and outstanding timing, but the "money notes" just aren't in her wheelhouse (yet)! Gllgamesh Taggett is a terrific Oliver Warbucks. His portrayal is grounded and honest and a solid anchor is this sea of "cartoon". His chemistry with Bates (Annie) is genuine and totally believable and, together, they provide the heart to this otherwise broadly played musical.
Erin Fish falls short of the barre set by all of the Miss Hannigans who have come before her! The role demands an innate sense of comedic timing and a command of the stage that Ms. Fish appears to lack. No amount of "schtick" or "bits" crafted by a director or choreographer can make up for lack of true "funny". Her performance fell flat, both comedically and vocally, and, sadly, some of the shows funniest moments and finest lyrics were lost in translation. Michael Santora's Rooster Hannigan is solid and appropriately brash. He is a very strong "song and dance man" and it is his performance that makes Easy Street such a successful Act One moment. Casey Prin (Grace Farrell) brings a strong presence and superb vocals to the company. The ensemble sings beautifully.
Martin Charnin's direction was, as it always is, effective but held no surprises. The real disappointment for me was Lisa Gennaro's simplistic and pedestrian choreography. It lacked energy and surprise and, more importantly, reason - it was movement for the sake of movement and rose to the level of mediocre, at best. Middle school show choirs could easily replicate the movement, and with as much success. The score is intrinsically joyful and exuberant but the musical staging lacked both joy and exuberance.
It is a shame ANNIE makes such a brief visit to the Coachella Valley, likely under the assumption it couldn't sell a longer run. If you can make your way to The McCallum to purchase the last remaining seats you won't leave disappointed. There's a reason why it is still such a popular piece of fluff in a modern musical theatre world full of angst. For tickets to ANNIE or upcoming shows at the McCallum visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.