Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Theater Review: Annie

The Sun Comes Up on Another Annie, but No New Deal
By Lauren Yarger
Another production of the Charles Strouse/Martin Charnin musical Annie? We have all seen countless versions if it on tour, in local community theater, on out high school stages, we've seen the movie and can sing all the songs by heart, so what would would motivate us to get excited about a revival on Broadway?

For me, interest piqued when I heard that Katie Finneran, who stole the show and won a Best Featured Actress Tony for her 15-minute turn in the otherwise uninspiring revival of Promises, Promises a few seasons back. So, having anything but a "Hard Knock Life" as a theater reviewer, I ventured once again into book writer Thomas Meehan's land of  "Tomorrow,"  where President Franklin D. Roosevelt (an engaging Merwin Foard) looks for a way to guide the nation out of the Depression and where millionaire Oliver Warbucks (Anthony Warlow) bonds with little Annie (Lilla Crawford) who thinks she's "Gonna Like it Here" at his house on "East Street" after living in an orphanage run by Miss Hannigan (Finneran) who isn't too fond of "Little Girls," played here by numerous kids including Emily Rosenfeld as Molly, Taylor Richardson as Duffy, Madi Rae Diietro as July, Junah Jang as Tessie, Tyrah Skye Odoms as Kate and Georgi James as Pepper.

Helping Annie make her transition to Warbuck's posh New York mansion (opulent in sweeping, folding design to create other settings by designer David Korins) are his secretary, Grace Farrell (a bland Brynn O'Malley), the butler, Drake (Joel Hatch) and housekeepers Mrs. Greer (Jane Blass) and Mrs. Pugh (Liz McCartney). Working against her are Hannigan, her brother, Rooster (Clarke Thorell) and his girlfriend, Lily (J. Elaine Marcos), who hatch a plot to have Rooster and Lily pose as Annie's long-lost parents and collect a reward posted by Warbucks (despite ethnic casting by Director James Lapine that makes this claim obviously bogus at first glance).

So, what's so different about this Broadway version? Not much. In fact, surprisingly, it seems more rote than some non-professional versions. Everybody seems to be going through the motions. The orphans don't seem as adorable as usual. Now, before I get buckets of hate mail because I don't like kids, let me explain. They are cute kids. They just seem to be meticuously executing choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler) that is constructed to look like cute kids doing exact moves. There's no fun or bounce to it.

Finneran is entertaining, gives it her all, and dusts off the "funny drunk" skills from Promises Promises (that turn also won her Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards), but she never seems to be "fully dressed" as Hannigan. In an ironic twist, she is upstaged this time by another co-star who only gets about 15 minutes of stage time: Sandy the dog (played by Sunny, trained by William Berloni, who rescued the first dog who played Sandy in the original production.) The dog really is cute and naturally looks with affection at Crawford as she belts her song, causing a bunch of "aws" to be issued by the audience. In fact, most of the post-show talk I heard on the way out of the theater was about how people wished the dog had a bigger part. Good for the dog. Not good for the adorable orphans (see paragraph above).

And while, I am being critical of the kids, here are two more problems: Molly can't be heard a good deal of the time and Annie belts even when she isn't singing, shouting her lines through most of the show (Brian Ronin, sound design). I'll stop short of complaining about lopping off her long, flowing, curled locks to make her over with the recognizable, short, red frizzed do associated with the Annie comic strip (Susan Hilferty, costume design).

What is good, and very good, is Warlow's portrayal of Warbucks: just the right combination of overbearing and humble with a terrific singing voice to boot. What a pleasure to hear this multi-range operatic singer make his Broadway debut here. It's also a pleasure to hear the Strouse/Charnin score. Every song is good -- something that can't be said about a lot of shows these days. The songs are a lot of why this show ran for almost six years after opening on Broadway in 1977 and why revivals are still being done today. Will there ever be one as exciting as the original? "Someday."

Annie runs at the Palace Theatre, Broadway at 47th Street., NYC. Tickets: 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929; www.ticketmaster.com. For more info: http://www.anniethemusical.com/

Christians might also like to know:
-- minor language (damn)
Wholesome show. Bring the family.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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