The Review of ANNIE from the Keene Star

We’ve gotten our first review of ANNIE. And it confirms what we’ve heard from so many folks – that ANNIE is a wonderful Christmas show the whole family will love. We’re posting the terrific review below, but before you read it – let us remind you that we’ve added extra performances of ANNIE to accommodate demand. These dates are:

Monday December 5th at 7:30pm

Monday December 12th at 7:30pm

Monday December 19th at 7:30pm

Tuesday December 20th at 7:30pm

Wednesday December 21st at 7:30pm

Now read on for an exceptional review of ANNIE by Amy Wolff Sorter of the Keene Star –

AMY WOLFF SORTER
keenestar@thestargroup.comWhen one thinks about the musical “Annie,” a few things come to mind. Red-headed orphan. The song “Tomorrow.” Rags-to-riches story and happy endings. The song “Tomorrow.” The Great Depression. And yes . . . the song “Tomorrow.” The very plot of this story — young, optimistic orphan finds happiness with her new adoptive (and wealthy) father — makes it a great holiday play.

One thing that may not come to mind, however, is risk-taking. It might seem, on the surface, that “Annie” represents a safe play for the Plaza Theatre Company to produce. Yet inherent in that production are some challenges that, happily enough, the cast and crew overcomes, leading to a delightfully acted, sung and entertaining production.

The first challenge is the staging. “Annie” is at its best in a proscenium-style setting, one in which a stage is at the front and elevated slightly above the audience.  It’s also a show with splashy numbers and a lot of dancing, typically not suited for the intimacy and small space of in-the-round theater.  But director Taffy Geisel and choreographer Tabitha Barrus make it work. The blocking and choreography fit beautifully in the small space and, for close to two hours, the cast sings, dances and makes its way through the in-the-round setting with ease, skill and energy.

The second is the role of Annie herself. This is not an easy one – it has to combine relentless optimism with a dose of realism and even, to an extent, leadership. Taylor O’Toole, who portrays Annie (she is double-cast with Rachel Browning), is exquisite in this role, standing up to Miss Hannigan (Darcy Farrington, who shares the role with Caroline Rivera) when called for, looking out for her orphan friends and wrapping Oliver Warbucks (ably portrayed by Jay Lewis, who shares the role with Tyler Cox) around her small hand.  O’Toole’s face is expressive – her smile lights up the stage, and her characterization of the downtrodden yet relentlessly cheerful Annie moves the play along very well.  O’Toole’s interpretation makes it easy to see why Annie is so well-liked.

The third challenge inherent in this production is the timing. “Annie” is a period piece, set during the Great Depression. Yet a lot of what goes on the stage is definitely applicable today. To their credit, director and choreographer seem to understand this and play off it. The song “N.Y.C.,” during which Annie, Warbucks and Grace Farrell (Jill Baker and Denise Fisher share this role) take their stroll up Fifth Avenue, admirably squares the “haves” and the “have-nots” against one another – not too different from the recent “Occupy Wall Street” activities.

And, not to get overly political, “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” performed wonderfully well and sung with extreme sarcasm by Hooverville’s residents, is applicable today  — one could substitute “Herbert Hoover” with the name of any politician they so desire. And later on in the production, when President Franklin Roosevelt (portrayed by Doug Henry) notes that having Annie on hand during a serious meeting with his advisers “will keep us on our best behavior,” one wonders if perhaps sending red-headed children to the corridors of power in D.C. might have the same impact.

Despite the somewhat somber moments of the show, there is a lot of humor to be found. Farrington, as Miss Hannigan, gets her share of laughs, whether she’s stumbling around, flask in hand, getting stomped on by one of the orphans or interacting with her brother Rooster (JaceSon Barrus). Speaking of which, Barrus keeps that laughter going when introducing his latest girlfriend, Lilly St. Regis (Tina Barrus) – “like in the hotel!” And when these two don their disguises as the “Mudges,” Annie’s alleged parents, they’re hilarious as well.

There are other entertaining moments as well. The scene acted around “Fully Dressed” at the NBC Radio Studio with Bert Healy (Joey Geisel), Harold Ickes (Josh Leblo) and the Boylan Sisters (Caitlan Davis, Hannah Midkiff and Emily Warwick) brings to mind slapstick at its best. When Lewis’ Oliver Warbucks discusses his own rags-to-riches rise with his small charge, he refers to $100 million as “back then, when it was a lot of money.” And Warbucks also brings down the house when referring to New York City in that typical snobby way in which New Yorkers refer to their home turf : “After New York,” he pontificates, “Everything is . . . Godley!”

So yes, “Annie” is a “must-see” show for this holiday season. It’s entertaining and fun. The tunes sink into your brain and lodge there. The cast is wonderful and energetic. Just as importantly, the cast and crew of this production have surmounted some interesting challenges to make it a thoroughly enjoyable show.

“Annie” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays through Dec. 19, then Tuesday-Friday Dec. 20-23. For information, contact the Plaza Theatre at 817-202-0600 or info@plaza-theatre.com.

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    • Ms.Adams
    • December 3rd, 2011

    I must say, Annie was an aazing show. I really enjoyed the Apple Seller. Who ever played that role did an amazing job!

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