BWW Review: Valley Youth Theatre Presents ANNIE ~ Knockout Performances By A Sterling Cast

BWW Review: Valley Youth Theatre Presents ANNIE ~ Knockout Performances By A Sterling Cast

If ever there was a show that could give you a glow and a feeling of whole it's Valley Youth Theatre's current production of ANNIE.

If ever there was a need these days to be reminded of the importance and power of charity and justice for those in our midst who are enduring hard times, then VYT's ANNIE will fill the bill.

If you need a sobering reminder about how much more remains to be done to eliminate the persistent cycles of the hard-knock life ~poverty, homelessness, tent cities (Hoovervilles), child abuse and family separation ~ from the fabric of our society ~ and to remember that, even in the darkest of times (the Depression), empathy prevailed to define public policy (the New Deal), then ANNIE will strike a chord.

If you ever needed reassurance that there's a generation of young talents and good-natured kids who will become solid contributing citizens (as have so many VYT alums), then the effervescent cast of VYT's ANNIE will dress you up with a full smile.

ANNIE lifts off to the resounding tones of Mark Fearey's full orchestra. The long-time resident musical director (23 years with VYT) and currently the music director at Grand Canyon University, Fearey has assembled an extraordinary group of young musicians. Their performance in the pit is as rousing as that of the players on stage, all the while maintaining an impressive balance with the singers.

As the girls of the city orphanage hustle to do their daily chores to the harsh whistle of the dour, overwrought, and soused Miss Hannigan (Karol Cooper), their fervor for mischief and conspiracy is balanced by the contagious optimism of Annie (Mia McFarland) who seeks only to find the parents who abandoned her and ends up embraced by corporate magnate Oliver Warbucks (Bobb Cooper) VYT's producing artistic director.

ANNIE 's marvelous and energetic cast, directed brilliantly by Mr. Cooper, moves with remarkable precision and VYTality to Nathalie Velasquez's inspired choreography.

Beyond McFarland's solid turn as Annie, there are a number of standout performances that deserve special mention. Olivia Smith as Grace Farrell, Oliver's charming assistant. Anand Khalsa as the beneficent President Roosevelt. Brandon Brown and Isabella Conner are terrific as the villainous Rooster and Lily St. Regis and sparkling in their jazzy and fluid renditions of Easy Street.

And then, there is nine-year-old Kate Williams, the youngest member of the cast, who very nearly upstages the whole enterprise with a totally endearing performance as little orphan Molly. But, more than endearing! To be true, Ms. Williams is incredibly gifted and talented, endowed with a personality, charisma, and sense of the stage that is jaw-dropping. I have no doubt that, in the next few years, she'll bring audiences to their feet in her own interpretation of Annie. Mr. Cooper may indeed be cultivating another Emma Stone.

Before this show closes, parents should give themselves and their kids a wonderful summer gift ~ Valley Youth Theatre's uplifting, inspired, and talent-rich production of ANNIE, running through July 1st on Center Stage at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, AZ.

Photo credit to Laura Durant

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From This Author Herbert Paine

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