Theater Review - Annie (NY)

Once in a while, something happens that makes an event, outside itself, very special. At the press opening of “Annie” last Friday night, darling Gabby Giffords, former Congresswoman, and her wonderful husband, Mark Kelly, former astronaut, sat in front of us. Their shared joy in seeing the show, enjoying the music, and eating M&Ms together, enhanced our pleasure of the moment.  They were joined by Martin Charnin, the lyricist extraordinaire for this musical, and his beautiful wife, Shelly Burch, who played the role of Lily in the original in 1977. That popular production lifted Broadway's spirits for 6 years. I am sure this one, Directed swiftly by James Lapine and Choreographed with circular patterns by Andy Blakenbuehler with costumes by Susan Hilferty, may play even longer.             

 

In the face of the storm that has justhit the city and environs, “Annie” could not have come at a better time. This sparkling tribute to New York City, designed by David Korins with inspired lighting by Donald Holder, a Book by Thomas Meehan and Music by Charles Strouse, based on the comic strip, “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray, is optimistic in the face of the severe Depression which was gripping the country in 1933.  Young Annie is a red-headed  orphan, who in the opening and so very touching number, “Maybe,” while clutching one half of her heart-shaped locket, explains that she has been waiting for eleven years for her parents to come and get her. Ever escaping from the orphanage, she finds Sandy, an adorable dog trained by William Berloni.  

 

Lilla Crawford displays an electric voice, a New York accent, and a spunky spirit as Annie, who along with six other talented orphans, suffers under the tortuous rules of Miss Hannigan. Tiny Emily Rosenfeld is a standout as Molly, whose bed is a dresser drawer!  And you can only empathize as they sing, “It's a Hard Knock Life,” countered by Annie's heartfelt “Tomorrow,” the song that has become an anthem.  Miss Hannigan, an alcoholic, is just plain mean, demanding that these little tykes express their love for her under impossible circumstances.  Unfortunately, in the hands of Kate Finneran, she is much too nasty.  Finneran was perfectly hilarious in “Promises,Promises” and “Noises Off” winning Tony, Outer Critics and Drama Desk awards. Here, she is far too powerful, too over the top, crossing the fine line between funny and sadistic. 

 

When Annie is spotted by Oliver Warbucks' secretary Grace Farell, the classy Brynn O'Malley, and taken to spend the holiday with this billionaire in his magnificent fully-staffed apartment, she sings, “I Think I'm Gonna to Like It Here.” And she does. Anthony Warlow is superb as Warbucks, who has devoted his life to making money and finds out there is more to life in “Something was Missing.”  Annie meets President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the marvelous Merwin Foard, and gives his cabinet: Ickes- Gavin Lodge, Perkins-Jane Blass, Hull-Jeremy Davis, Morganthau-Dennis Stowe, Howe- Keven Quillom, some good advice.

 

Hannigan, her brother Rooster and girlfriend Lily, conspire to kidnap Annie and dream of being rich –in the low-down number “Easy Street.” A melodious score that tells a story, we mustn’t forget to include “You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile,”  “I Don't Need Anything But You,” and last, but not least, “N.Y.C.”

          

“Annie”—still a treat at the Palace Theatre.

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