BWW Review: Scottsdale Musical Theater Company Presents ANNIE
David Hock, Scottsdale Musical Theater Company's founder and executive producer, struck it rich when he snagged two prominent theatre veterans, Bronson Pinchot and Kaitlin Hopkins, to co-star in ANNIE THE MUSICAL (on stage now at the Tempe Center for the Arts through January 7th.) He appears as well to have made a novel if not daring choice in the interpretation of their characters. The result is a light-hearted, easygoing and amusing production but one without the essential shadows, tensions, and chemistry that commonly stir one's emotions, seize the heart, and make for a memorable experience.
Pinchot's Oliver Warbucks (donning an uncharacteristically full and neatly combed head of hair) is less the stately, self-assured and moody billionaire baron and more a wily and well-connected dealmaker who nevertheless seems uncomfortable and hesitant in his own suit and success. When he meets Annie, who has been invited by his secretary Grace (Lauren Koeritzer) to spend the Christmas Holiday at his mansion, he fumbles and stammers, more awkward than inconvenienced by the orphan's intrusion. (Yes, of course, he will warm up to Annie as the ultimate father figure, but the evolution is unconvincing.)
Hopkins plays Miss Hannigan, not the sinister orphanage matron encumbered by a perpetual hangover and fury but rather more of a benign romantic, stuck in a job she hates, finding sanctuary in favorite radio land dramas and music shows, and interminably disrupted and overwrought by her mischievous and defiant wards. (Yes, she will end up on the wrong side of the law when she plots to scam Daddy Warbucks, revealing at last the attributes of the more familiar Hannigan.)
Ryan Parker, an already seasoned young actress at the age of 11, plays Annie with confidence and a sweet voice that can carry the high notes to the rafters. However, her Annie is staid and proper, lacking the sass, vulnerability, and spirit of the eternal optimist and rebel that breaks the rules to find her long lost parents. (Yes, she will, of course, finally grab everyone's heart with Tomorrow ~ on that, you can bet your bottom dollar.)
As Annie's story unfolds, the stage does come alive in the big numbers with an ensemble, including the very cute and endearing orphans, that gives energy, precision, and color to the choreography of Mr. Hock and Hillary Conrad.
One of the high lights of the show is the stellar performance of Hector Coris as Miss Hannigan's incorrigible brother Rooster. He and his gold digger girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Melissa Kamel, subbing on opening night for Anneliese van der Poll) plot to rip off Warbucks for a $50,000 reward. Coris never fails to dominate a stage with his wit and song-and-dance talent and imbues his role, especially in Easy Street, with his distinctive flair.
Photo credit to Scottsdale Musical Theater Company