The Children’s Theatre Company has decided to stage for their first show since the Covid Pandemic shut theatres down, Annie. It’s a great show, Children’s maybe going the route Disney used to before home video and restaging when the next generation comes of age to enjoy it. That would be an ideal model, Annie is full of memorable songs and a nice dose of humor, making it a great introduction to live theatre for audiences. The original Broadway production debuted in 1977 with Book by Thomas Meehan, Music by Charles Strouse, and Lyrics by Martin Charnin. You can’t go wrong with this show and CTC has mounted an excellent production. An elegant set, a great cast make for the perfect outing this holiday season in the tradition of the annual pantomime.
Annie is set during the great depression, depending on the age of the child you might take, this can be an in to discussing a bit of history as well. Annie and her friends lives in an Orphanage under the strict eye of Miss Hannigan, who incidentally hates kids. Unlike the other orphans, Annie has hopes that she will be reunited with her parents. She has a locket and a note that was left with her by her parents. It says that they will be back for her when they can and will keep the other half of the locket so they will know each other when they come back. Annie has been waiting 11 years for them to come back and decides she has waited long enough. She sneaks out of the orphanage in the laundry basket and sets off to find them. Before long she has made friends with a stray dog, Sandy, but just as quickly she is caught by the police and taken back to Miss Hannigan. Luckily before Miss Hannigan can exact retribution on Annie, she is plucked from the orphanage by the personal secretary of billionaire Oliver Warbucks, Grace Farrell. Warbucks has decided to have an orphan stay with him for two weeks over the holidays. Before long, Annie has won over the industrialist and he has decided to adopt her. But when he learns of her note and locket it agrees to help her find her real parents. Enter Miss Hannigan’s Brother Rooster and his girl Lily St. Regis, who will cook up a scheme to pose as Annie’s real parents using Miss Hannigan’s inside knowledge of Annie’s locket and the note. Will they get away with it? Will Annie and Sandy ever be reunited? You can probably guess but you’ll have to see the show to know for sure!
There are two actresses playing the role of Annie on alternating days, I saw Lola Ronning and she was great! A nice singing voice and a stage presence that put her on equal footing with her adult counterparts. She never, and this is true of all the young actors, appears to be acting. She is just in character and completely natural. Other standouts in the cast are JoeNathan Thomas as Oliver Warbucks. Thomas was able to convey a busy man running an empire a complete master of his world, that also has a tender heart which is easily won over by Annie. His duet with Ronning on “I Don’t Need Anything But You” shows off both his musical chops and his naturalness with the young performer, there seemed to be genuine affection between them and a pride in the work Ronning was doing. Reed Sigmund is clearly having a lot of fun with the role of Rooster, his performance making it clear why they call him Rooster. And a standout in the excellent cast of ensemble players was Dean Holt who played multiple characters, each distinct. My favorite was Lt. Ward, who seemed like he stepped right out of a Frank Capra or Preston Sturges film from the 1930’s.
Directed by Peter Rothstein he keeps the show moving along nicely keeping the younger audiences attention for the most part. The Set Designer Vicki Smith has created a very practical yet elaborate set whose transitions between multiple locations are quick and fluid and each setup is a marvel. The sets and the environments they create may be more important in a children’s show than in an adult one. I think they can have their imaginations ignited by the creativity they see before them. Smith creates an orphanage, a mansion, a cityscape complete with overpass and skyscrapers. Lighting Designer Paul Whitaker helps to complete the feel of a 1930’s film. The Musica Direction by Victor Zupanc and the the orchestras performances are spot on. The show is filled with memorable songs like “Hard Knock Life”, “Tomorrow”, and “Maybe”
Annie runs through January 9th 2022 for more information and to purchase tickets go here https://childrenstheatre.org/.