BWW Reviews: ANNIE Sparkles at the Fabulous Fox
Harold Gray, the original creator of the cliff-hanging comic strip that features the pupil-less girl known as "Little Orphan Annie", may be just a footnote in history, but most people are aware of the musical adaptation, Annie, of his creation that premiered in 1977. Even though it was reworked a couple of years ago, that version is not the one that's currently on tour. I didn't see it, so I have no clue what was changed, but I do know that this charming and delightful work by Thomas Meehan, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, still maintains its humor and heart with its heroine's search for love and acceptance during the darkest days of the depression.
Annie chronicles the adventures of a little orphan girl who's searching for her parents who have abandoned her in a rather seedy orphanage, but left behind a letter in a locket promising one day to return. Chance allows her to spend two weeks during the Christmas holidays with billionaire Oliver Warbucks. who winds up wanting to adopt her, but instead provides her with the means to pursue her missing parents. Of course things never go as planned, but you can be sure this musical journey will leave you with a smile.
Issie Swickle does a very nice job as Annie, giving this spirited tyke just the right mix of spunk and pathos required by the role. Her renditions of the opening tune "Maybe" and "Tomorrow" are sparkling and clear as a bell. Gilgamesh Taggett impresses as "Daddy" Warbucks, who becomes immediately smitten with the diminutive redhead, despite mounting business concerns. His versions of "NYC", and the tender song "Something Was Missing", are especially well done. Ashley Elder also shines as Grace Farrell, Warbucks' personal assistant.
As the central villain of this piece, Lynn Andrews' portrayal of Miss Hannigan, the liquor-swilling caretaker of the orphans, is terrifically over the top. Her sarcastic run through "Little Girls", and her interactions with Garrett Deagon, as her equally sleazy ex-con brother Rooster, on "Easy Street", are both nicely rendered. Lucy Werner neatly rounds out the treacherous trio as Lily. The strong supporting cast includes a gaggle of incredibly cute children as the orphans, Sunny as Annie's adorable stray dog Sandy, and Allan Baker as FDR.
Martin Charnin directs and keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace. The scene changes are a model of efficiency, enhanced by the backdrops and sets of scenic designer Beowulf Boritt. The show also benefits from the lighting scheme of Ken Billington, a wide range of period costumes by Suzy Benzinger., and the splendid choreography of Liza Gennaro.
Annie continues through December 7, 2014 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. It's a perfect holiday treat for the whole family.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus