ROBIN’S SHOW RECOMMENDATION: ANNIE
ANNIE features a book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, with all three authors receiving 1977 Tony Awards® for their work. ANNIE is directed by Pulitzer Prize and three-time Tony Award®-winner James Lapine and choreographed by Tony Award®-winner Andy Blankenbuehler.
ANNIE stars two-time Tony Award® winner Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan, Australian star Anthony Warlow making his Broadway debut as Daddy Warbucks and 11-year-old Lilla Crawford as Annie, with Brynn O’Malley as Grace Farrell, Clarke Thorell as Rooster Hannigan, and J. Elaine Marcos as Lily St. Regis. The Orphans are Madi Rae DiPietro as July, Georgi James as Pepper, Junah Jang as Tessie, Tyrah Skye Odoms as Kate, Taylor Richardson as Duffy, Emily Rosenfeld as Molly and Jaidyn Young as standby for the roles of Annie, Pepper, Duffy and July. The production also features Ashley Blanchet, Jane Blass, Jeremy Davis, Fred Inkley, Merwin Foard, Joel Hatch, Amanda Lea LaVergne, Gavin Lodge, Liz McCartney, Desi Oakley, Keven Quillon, David Rossetti, Sarah Solie, Dennis Stowe and Ryan VanDenBoom.
The original production of ANNIE opened April 21, 1977 at the Alvin Theatre and went on to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, seven Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, the Grammy for Best Cast Show Album and seven Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score. The show was one of the biggest Broadway musical hits of the 1970s, running for almost six years and playing 2,377 performances.
The score for ANNIE includes “Maybe,” “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You” and the eternal anthem of optimism, “Tomorrow”. Annie is a textbook example of what a great score and story can do for a show. So many musicals these days, while entertaining, are far from memorable, particularly the music, but ANNIE stays with you…..really, forever. For that reason, the original is a tough act to follow. I recall seeing it years ago with my parents, and Andrea McArdle was a wonderful Annie (likely the best of them all), and Dorothy Loudon as Miss. Hannigan won a Tony and left an indellible imprint on the role. She was a bawdy broad with impressive pipes and physical comedy who brought the house down. To watch her perform Little Girls is a case book study in comedic theatricality.
Ms. Finneran puts her own spin on the Miss. Hannigan character, and while entertaining in her own right, she doesn’t have the chops of Ms. Loudon, and that hugely impacted Act I, which could have drawn more laughs. The night I attended, Taylor Richardson played the part of Annie. She was a delight, though she would have put the songs over with greater sweetness in her voice in Act I if she toned down the over enunciation. Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks didn’t quite have the stage presence of Reed Shelton, the original. Brynn O’Malley as Miss. Farrell delivered. Clarke Thorell as Rooster and J. Elaine Marcos made for a likeable, devious, partner in crime team. The orphan actresses are a talented, appealing crew……Emily Rosenfeld as Molly was adorable. And, Sandy the dog does his canine best to impress, and scores.
The new production is sure to be a hit with families, especially those with young girls. Tourists will no doubt flock. If you’ve never seen the show before, it is a classic must-see. And, if you’re an existing ANNIE fan, it will feel like a trip down memory lane, and while it may disappoint on some levels, the delectable Strouse score is as good as ever.
The creative team of the new production includes scenic design by Drama Desk Award-winner David Korins, costume design by Tony Award-winner Susan Hilferty, lighting design by two-time Tony Award-winner Donald Holder and sound design by Tony Award-winner Brian Ronan. Projection design is by Wendall K. Harrington. Music director is Todd Ellison. Orchestrations are by Michael Starobin. Dance music arrangements are by Alex Lacamoire. Musical coordinator is Patrick Vaccariello. Hair and wig design is by Tom Watson. Casting is by Telsey + Company. Animal training is by William Berloni.
ANNIE is produced on Broadway by Arielle Tepper Madover, Roger Horchow, Sally Horchow, Roger Berlind, Roy Furman, Debbie Bisno, Stacey Mindich, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Jane Bergère/Daryl Roth and Eva Price/Christina Papagjika.