Annie; The New Deal for Broadway

The little people singing about “Tomorrow” are Broadway’s biggest hit Today. Heads turned towards Broadway last year after producer’s announced a 35th anniversary revival of the hit musical Annie aiming for the Great White Way in the 2012-2013 Season. And while many might have worried or previously doubted these rugged orphans from the Lower East Side, have no fear. The 2012 Broadway revival of Annie is inventive, reworked and shines brighter than the top of the Chrysler Building.

Annie is a musical that features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and a book by Thomas Meehan. The musical is based after the hit comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, and opened on Broadway in 1977 to rave reviews. The musical follows one little girl (Annie) who lives in an orphanage as she works to find out who her real parents are. She does this with the help of a man who adopts her, Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks, and his assistant Grace Farrell. Together, they work through triumph and tragedy to find out the truth behind Annie’s parents and discover love along the way. This revival production has received a touch up to both the book and score.

This Annie revival comes on the heels of the shows 35th anniversary to its original Broadway production. Just like when it first came to New York, Annie is powerful featuring a solid script (with new jokes) and a fresh score featuring faster tempo’s and orchestrations fit for the 21st century. If you didn’t think you could fall more in love with Annie, you’re wrong. Directed by James Lapine and featuring choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, Annie is even stronger this time around and built for a new generation. The show flows like a storybook bought to life even more through fantastic technical elements that decorate the Palace itself. One definite choice in the show that many people will probably dislike is the choice of a strong New York accent for the orphans. Quite literally filling stereotypes with the way they pronounce certain words, I personally did not mind the added touch. It helped this period piece feel more stylized in this generation of so many cultures.

Leading the pack is Lilla Crawford who stars as the title role of Annie in the production. Crawford, who found herself cast in the role after a nationwide search, is absolutely stellar. You forget the fact that she is only 11 years old as she leads the entire orphan gang through not only many adventures but number after number as well. She definitely leads by example consistently proving herself through strong acting choices not falling into the stereotypical approach to this musical and character. Her rendition of “Tomorrow” brings down the house while warming your heart at the same moment. You can’t help but find yourself starring at Crawford during the show thinking “This is what dreams are about. And this is what happens when they come true”.

If Annie herself isn’t enough to wow you over, have no fear! A gang of fierce orphans accompany the lead orphan with crazy dance moves, fierce personalities and fantastic voices all around. The gang includes Emily Rosenfeld as Molly, Georgi James as Pepper, Taylor Richardson as Duffy, Madi Rae DiPietro as July, Junah Jang as Tessie and Tyrah Skye Odoms as Kate.They shine from top to bottom throughout the show in a variety of scenes and songs. The show begins with two of the best numbers in the production “Maybe” and “Hard Knock Life” which is brought to life by Annie and the gang. They prove from the very beginning of the show that while they might be little, they are a forced to be reckoned with. Jaidyn Young  serves as the understudy for Annie as well as the standby for Annie, Pepper, Duffy and July. She will be beginning performances soon as well.

Two time Tony Award winner Katie Finneran takes on the nasty role of Miss Hannigan in the revival. Finneran works the role bringing to life the nasty character and seeming entirely loopy while at it. She plays Hannigan in her own manner but when it comes as to how exactly to describe that, I lack words. She isn’t bad. She’s absolutely fantastic and definitely evil. Her rendition of “Little Girls” is solid and her character will continue to grow even more as previews continue. Her gang featuring Clarke Thorell as Rooster Hannigan and J. Elaine Marcos as Lily St. Regis prove interesting and oddly paired. Thorell proves himself consistently with his fake alibi as Ralph Mudge, Annie’s real father and his strong vocals in “Easy Street”. However, his partner in crime isn’t as lucky. I’d sadly have to say Marcos is the weakest link of the show overall and frankly did not appeal to me at all throughout the entire production.

Anthony Warlow who stars as Oliver Warbucks in the production is one of the production’s biggest highlights. The first question that comes to mind with Warlow’s performance is, “Why is this his first attempt at Broadway?”  Warlow proves paternal as he is thrown into the role of fathering an orphan girl he knows nothing about and excels. Besides his superb acting, his musical numbers such as “N.Y.C.” and “Cabinet Tomorrow” are fantastic and bright numbers in the show. Warlow and Crawford’s rendition of “I Don’t Need Anything But You” is beyond adorable and has the audience in love with the pair if they aren’t already. These two paired up together on the Broadway stage is a match made in heaven.

There are also two other people in the production worth noting. First, is Brynn O’Malley (Pictured Left) who starred as Grace Farrell. O’Malley’s focus, direction and passion is not only present during the performance but helps drive the show through scenes where other major songs, characters or plot points are present. She is a joy to watch onstage. The second shout out goes to Ashley Blanchet who is seen featured in a variety of roles but her number one being Star to Be. Blanchet somehow manages to steal the stage entirely during a huge production number with a smaller solo she has. She brings down the house with insane vocals that have you asking 1) Who was that? and 2) Can she please come back?

If the performances in this fantastic revival aren’t enough to “Wow” you over, the technical elements involved in the show may just appear to be financed by Daddy Warbucks himself. What exactly do I mean by that? David Korin‘s delivers a brilliant set as the scenic designer. Creating a set that works like a storybook folding and unfolding throughout is not only beautiful to watch but flawless to execute. It is inventive reusing items on stage as other major set pieces as well (Sorry no spoilers). The set is larger than life, gorgeous and helps to bring to life the sense of a true palace (And I’m not just talking about the theatre). Donald Holder adds to the excellent scenic elements with superb lighting. From the colorful drop used upstage throughout the show to the moving lights used in various ensemble numbers, Holder’s design is never over the top but always just enough with an added touch. Costume designs brought to life by Susan Hilferty are not only period appropriate but perfect, period. From Hannigan’s absurd outfits to the lavish lifestyle of the Warbucks estate, Hilferty’s design is spot on hitting all the spots. She matches the color of the scenic elements but not the lighting which allows for the costumes to pop on the characters who wear them. Brian Ronan‘s sound design is strong and bright but sometimes proved a little too dull. You have a fantastic cast with even better voices, let’s make sure we hear them.

If you have any doubt about this Broadway revival of Annie, let me make things very clear right now; this is no Broadway revival to be messed with. You may wonder just how much power little girls have exactly? Little girls by no means suggests little talent. These are future stars dancing around on stage and you will be the only one missing out if you don’t check out the stars of tomorrow, today. We apologize for a lack of production photos in this post! They are not officially out yet! We will be sure to bring them to you here on the blog as soon as they are available! Check out the rest of Luner on Theatre’s Annie Coverage! For more information, check out the Official Annie Revival on Broadway Website! Be sure to check Luner on Theatre on Facebook and Follow Us on Twitter as well! We are constantly updating these pages with information! And of course, check out the rest of Luner on Theatre for all your theatre news you don’t only need but want to know!

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