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Annie
a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Thoman Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin

COMPANY : Theater of the Stars [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Fabulous Fox [WEBSITE]
ID# 4219

SHOWING : January 14, 2012 - January 22, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Set in New York City during the depths of the Depression in December of 1933, ANNIE is the ultimate Cinderella story. It recounts the adventures of a little girl searching for her lost parents. Eleven year old Annie attempts an escape from the municipal orphanage and the alcoholic clutches of the hilariously mean and scheming Miss Hannigan.

During her many exploits, Annie befriends a stray dog named Sandy, and crosses the path of some very interesting characters, including billionaire Daddy Warbucks. Ever optimistic, Annie wins the help and the hearts of everyone she meets.

ANNIE is full of well known songs such as "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" and the immortal "Tomorrow" that will have you humming and singing all
the way home.


CAST & CREW LIST
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Flat and Eyeless
by Dedalus
Sunday, January 29, 2012
3.0
Maybe far away
Or Maybe very near
Someone is listening to “Annie”
And sticking a fork in their ear.


Admit it. You too are an “Annie”-hater. The thought of sitting through almost three hours of little girls, sticky-sweet optimism, and drill-them-into-your-mind melodies sounds about as appealing as an acid enema. “Annie” is the new “Cats” for the aren’t-we-so-hip in-crowd.

It’s so easy to fall into that trap. I’ve been involved in more productions than I’d care to admit, and truth to tell, it would not be my first choice for an evening out. But, I’m also a Daddy, and, since my gifted offspring had a 2011 run in “Annie Jr,” I thought it was time for her to witness a professional production of the “real thing.” So, Fox-ward we wended on a drizzly Tuesday night.

Theatre of the Stars has put together a vehicle for Sally Struthers to strut her comic chops, for Brad Oscar to show he has a post-Producers career, and for more than a few Atlanta actors (and children) to collect a pay check. All do fine work, and all try their durndest to give folks the “Annie” they expect. But they are stymied by a lifeless production that poses them in static tableaus for almost every number, and that pads the pace so the 160-plus minute running time seems like it’s over two-and-a-half hours.

“Annie” started its life with a bit of an identity crisis. It was based on the long-running Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” who used it to make pointed conservative political jabs at (among other things) labor unions, communism, and the New Deal. But, the musical, debuting in 1977, uses the story to make pointed liberal political jabs as (among other things) Herbert Hoover, big business, and rich folks. Really, the only thing they had in common was a little orphan, a rich benefactor, and that blindingly awful red dress. At least the strip was written with cliff-hanger sensibility totally drained from the stage version. Even FDR’s New Deal, a target of some of Gray’s most venomous attacks, becomes the plot-resolving “happy ending” of the musical. Go figure!

So, here’s the story, as if you didn’t know. Annie lives at the New York City Municipal Orphanage for Girls Annex, cared for by the comically mean Miss Hannigan. She runs away, is returned, and becomes the ward of billionaire Oliver Warbucks. A few mild complications involving a locket and a half-baked scheme by Miss Hannigan’s rascally brother Rooster are quickly dispatched, and Annie is set to live happily ever after.

It’s easy to see how this show is a cynic’s nightmare. It’s filled with cute little girls (no obese or funny-looking children need apply), and Annie’s brand of optimism is the kind that affects the other characters more than the audience. There’s little real threat to the characters, and the score by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin is filled with addictive melodies that linger in your head longer than you’d like.

But, (and here’s where I lose my snarky cynic’s certification), I find some of it not only enjoyable and clever, but self-deprecatingly so – it KNOWS its pluckier-than-thou heroine is over-the-top sunny, and actually gets comic mileage out of that knowledge – look no further than the Hooverville exchanges (“We use newspapers for blankets!” “At least you can read in bed.”) And, the script is filled with sly allusions and jokes that register nicely (“Harpo called.” “What did he want?” “He didn’t say.”).

Sure, it would have been nice to add a layer of real threat (the orphan’s gruel diet is made into a joke rather than a cruel facet of their lives). A few scenes of real danger would have also been welcome. But, as it is, “Annie” should be a warm and friendly show for families and kids of all ages.

Here, though, everything is static and slow, giving the whole thing a flat and lifeless veneer that’s hard to shake. The cast stands still for most of the musical numbers. And, the population of the orphanage is increased to over thirty (giving “Hard Knock Life” an eardrum-busting shrillness). If it weren’t for the elaborate sets, I’d almost believe we were watching a concert version of the show.

The cast is fine – I liked Sally Struthers’ randy and raspy-voiced Miss Hannigan, Brad Oscar’s gruffly affectionate Daddy Warbucks, and, especially, Mary Peeples’ winsome and winning Annie. It was good to see a lot of familiar Atlanta faces in the supporting cast (including Claci Miller, Glen Rainey, Christy Baggett, and Lisa Manuli), all doing excellent work. And they are given a polished and well-executed sandbox in which to play – backdrops evoke Edward Hopper, scenes appear and disappear with a smooth pace that should have been used in the scenes themselves, and the orchestral is tuneful without being overpowering.

But, when all is said and done, this is still “Annie.” This show will always be with us, will always be popular, and will always be the launch pad for stage-struck girls. I can tolerate it, even enjoy it if done correctly.

But here, they might as well have given the actors pupil-covering contacts, because it was as flat and eyeless as the comic strip itself.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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