“Annie” is a show that I think everyone has had touch their lives in one way or another. Whether it be your first play you did as a little girl, or it might be that you know every word of “Tomorrow,” Annie has somehow made it into the hearts of millions through the years. The show opened on Broadway in 1977 and ran for nearly six years. The show is about a little orphan girl who has lost her parents. Annie lives in 1933 New York during the great depression.This red headed, optimistic, orphan know-it-all finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime when Oliver Warbucks, a successful billionaire, invites her to live with him for two weeks during the Christmas holiday. Ms. Hannigan is the woman in charge of all the orphans of this show. She is very jealous that Annie gets to live a life of abundance and luxury after Oliver Warbucks sends his secretary, Grace, to officially adopt Annie. It just so happens that Rooster Hannigan, Ms. Hannigan’s brother, is in town with his new found floozy, Lily St. Regis. Rooster is a con who believes that Annie is the key to becoming rich and if the three can kidnap Annie from Mr. Warbucks, they can use her to become rich beyond their wildest dreams.
When it comes to the ending, it really depends on which version you saw. The ending of this show has been tweaked for film. Rooster and Lily dress up as an older married couple and, with the help of Ms. Hannigan, convince everyone that they are her real parents. Oliver Warbucks had sent the FBI to find Annie’s parents earlier in the show and discovers that they have both passed away. Seeing through this, he invites Ms. Hannigan and the orphans over for christmas along with Annie’s “mom” and “dad.” It is there that he has the three apprehended and the musical ends happily with Annie adopted by Warbucks and all the orphans never having to worry about their caretaker again.
I was very fortunate to attend the final dress rehearsal of this production. I have never attended a show in Syracuse. The high school that this show was performed at was HUGE. The cast consisted of (I’m not too far off by this) about one hundred people. This show also has a live orchestra playing the show. These aspects are huge concerns when attending community theatre productions just because of the size and skill needed. I was more than impressed once the orchestra started to play and the orchestra really showed their chops. They were more than exceptional when playing the music of the show and I was very impressed to hear a live band that together and in tune. The show started with little Molly (Anna Snarr) having a nightmare. It’s here that we meet Annie (London Krey). London was a very spunky and optimistic little girl. She seemed a little too old to be playing the role of Annie, but for all I know she may have just hit a growth spurt. I honestly think the only thing I would really critique with her is when London would get very excited and then she would talk very fast. The words were hard to understand at those moments, but other than that, they were very clear and easily heard. I wasn’t sure what I felt with London when she would perform the songs. I really enjoyed her voice and think that this little girl has A LOT of potential when it comes to future performances in her coming of age. I didn’t like some of the choices in her vocal positioning or her telling the story of the song. However, an actor can be blamed for only so much in that aspect as it is also the job of the creative staff to make sure that these things are clean and without error. That being said, London Krey is an excellent Annie who will be enjoyed by the audience. After singing “Maybe,” we meet Ms. Hannigan (Rachel Child). Rachel was a Hannigan from hell. She was very mean and very abusive to the kids. Totally fake in every way to anyone else. Good job, Rachel. She played Ms. Hannigan very New York, abusive husband in a tank top, type of lady. The physical aspect of her with the girls made me nervous at times just because of how quick it happened. Just because we are talking about characters, I’d like to mention one woman in particular; Melanie Rollins played the part of Grace in this production of Annie. Grace, for those of you who don’t know, is the secretary of Oliver Warbucks and becomes the mother figure of our show. Melanie could sing, she was very talented and one of the standouts vocally among the adult cast. I was very sad that I couldn’t hear her. It being a final tech rehearsal, I would not have marked it against them if they had stopped the performance just to fix her mic. I encourage it honestly, and feel it would have been worth the few minutes wait to hear her voice clearly through the audience.
Before I get too ahead of myself I should stop and mention the MASSIVE cast that took over the stage. If I had something to compare it to, I would have to say a clown car. The cast just kept flowing from backstage at times during the show. The size of the cast was very cumbersome when it came to scenes and made it really hard to watch what was going on during the scenes. But the scenes where the setting was in a city or outside, such as the number “NYC” it looked great. I think that as long as that many actors were constantly moving on and off stage it was great, but when they had to stop and dance it was obvious that there were too many members of this show.
When it comes to the creative aspect and design of the show, I had my likes and my dislikes (as does everyone). Lindy Bowthorpe-Davis gave us our direction and choreography of the show. assistant choreography was done by Siri Elkins. As a dancer myself, I completely understand the challenge that comes with trying to choreograph fifty people on stage. However, a lot of the numbers, including the smaller ones, the numbers looked like a high school drill team. Step 2-3-4, and hold 2-3-4, kick! Most of the children were looking for their invisible marks on stage, this is expected in children, but not in adults. I would see adults making sure they were an exact distance and all the choreography seemed to be choreographed in triangles which is very common in military drill team numbers. I will however say that this worked for one number and that was “Hard Knock Life.” the song, for those of you who don’t know, is very sharp and has a very distinct beat to it. the girls marching and stepping in rythm worked for this number, but it didn’t work in the other songs like “Easy Street” where there were only three people on stage doing similar movements with one another. The direction was something that I didn’t really notice or have an issue with until it got to the intimate scenes.Two examples would have to be during the song “Tomorrow” Annie found Sandy, her K-9 companion and stood center stage belting her song. After a small back and forth with another character, she then returns to her exact spot center stage and sings again. Three minutes center stage is a long time when all you are doing is singing out. The second example would be when Oliver Warbucks (Jared Jensen) is trying to tell Annie that he wants to adopt her in act 1. Jared had somewhat of a William Shatner tone when he would speak his lines, every word got its own meaning. This is good unless you have to really emotionally connect with a little girl on stage. The fact that their experience differs on stage as performers is already a bridge that needs to be crossed for the actors but in that scene both Annie and Warbucks seemed to not fully understand what they were saying to one another nor did they have the emotional motivation to deliver the lines that they were saying.
Lastly I would like to mention the Vocal director of the show Aimee Geddes. Aimee performed for us as “Star to Be.” It was in the moment that she stepped forward and began to sing, that I realized where the vocal decisions came from. Aimee is a talented vocal talent and very fun to listen to, she has a Kristin Chenoweth feel about her. But her voice choices were also present in the ensemble and ESPECIALLY in Annie. I feel that while it may work for Aimee, a different technique may be better suited for others in the cast. Some things I noted were people starting on the breath of the note and Annie not being so forward in her focal mask. These are of course little technicalities and are really minor issues in the overall production.
Bottom line is: this show is MASSIVE and a massive show isn’t easy to pull off. My critiques aside, the musical is fun. You will really enjoy the voices of everyone involved. Annie is adorable, Warbucks has a shaven head and all the little girls remind you that “you are never fully dressed without a smile”. I truly feel that this show deserves a big audience and anyone who sees this show will remember it for being the Annie they all grew up with.
Annie runs at Syracuse High School, located at: 665 S 2000 W, Syracuse, UT 84075. Tickets are $5-$8 depending on where you choose to sit. and the show will be playing July 19, 20, and 22 at 7:30PM with a Matinee at 2pm on Saturday, July 20th. you can purchase tickets online at http://www.syracuseutaharts.