BWW Review: North Carolina Theatre's ANNIE
Based on Harold Gray's comic strip titled Little Orphan Annie, this musical tells the story of a little orphan with equal measures of pluck and positivity who charms everyone's hearts, despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930's New York City. She is determined to find her parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan. With the help of the other girls in the Orphanage, Annie escapes to the wondrous world of NYC, finds herself a new home and family in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary Grace Farrell, and a lovable mutt named Sandy.
When I last met up with Little Orphan Annie herself, it was when she came on tour to DPAC back in December of 2014. Now through July 28th, North Carolina Theatre is presenting their own production of the 1977 Tony-winning musical at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Under the direction of Eric Woodall, he is able to treat the material with great respect while still bringing some of his own ideas to the table.
When the curtain goes up, we the audience see a basket left all alone on the streets of New York. Then, a cop comes by to find a baby and a note inside of it. When he takes the basket to the orphanage, we see a parade of orphans (many of which are played by students from the NCT Conservatory) walking across the stage carrying buckets, which ends with a now 11-year-old Annie. Even during A Star to Be's solo in the song 'NYC', Woodall along with choreographer James Gray (who does some very lively work) came up with a very clever idea. When we first meet A Star to Be, she has just arrived in New York, then we start seeing her fantasize about making it big in the city. Raleigh native Carly Grissom proves to be a real triple threat during that character's brief appearance.
Each member of the principal cast does a great job of creating their own portrayals of their characters. 12-year-old Alexa Lasanta gives a very strong performance in the titular role of Annie, the spunky and optimistic orphan who's looking for her parents. John Eric Parker is quite wonderful as billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks, who opens his home to Annie during the holiday season. Karen Ziemba is so brilliantly memorable as the disillusioned orphanage matron, Miss Hannigan. Manna Nichols gives a very charismatic performance as Warbucks' faithful secretary, Grace Farrell. Nicolas Dromard and Erica Mansfield both prove to be quite a match for each other as Rooster Hannigan & Lily St. Regis, who scheme to abduct Annie. NCT alum Dirk Lumbard gives a very authentic performance as President Franklin D. Roosevelt (otherwise known as FDR), who is inspired to make a New Deal and restore America's economy after meeting Annie.
Overall, audiences of all ages should be in for a real treat with NCT's production of Annie. Kids looking to get exposed to live theater should not be disappointed with this. It's filled with classic musical comedy and some heartfelt moments.
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