Ta-da! In the elegant arches of the Orpheum’s grand proscenium lies a show that is seemingly too big for the stage. From the smallest atom of the painted scrims to the furrowed brow of Daddy Warbucks,Annie uses all aspects of theatre in order to keep this ancient show alive and kicking.
Annie is considered by many to be a classic. As all of you reading this probably have heard a million times, Annie is about an 11 year old orphan who gets the opportunity of a lifetime. She is invited to spend Christmas at the billionaire Oliver Warbucks’ (Gilgamesh Taggett) mansion. In a quest to find her parents, Annie is faced with joy, heartbreak, and eventually a dream come true.
The scenery of this show is larger than life in the most realistic way possible. The orphanage and the slums of New York were faded and dusty. They seemed to sag on stage in a way that said, “There’s no hope here! Turn back!” This in contrast with the giant scrims sweeping the stage provided a hidden metaphor. In the immediate world where Annie is, poverty is everywhere. Wealth and hope are nowhere to be found. On the scrim, we see clear-cut, polished, and luxurious buildings and places. The set showed physically how far apart the poor were from the wealthy. It also showed how in the eyes of the impoverished, it seemed impossible to get to the top of the social ladder.
Annie (Issie Swickle) is the one who defies the expectations of those around her by reaching the top, and like the set, plays her role larger than life. Like all of the children in the show, She talked and sang in an unnaturally high voice that made all of the children seem like they were only five or six years old. Although this worked for Molly (Lilly Mae Stewart) who was the youngest orphan, the older orphans were just too phony for it to be enjoyable.
The quality of singing and dancing throughout the entire cast far surpassed their acting choices. Many Broadway tours that come through have small casts, and often these casts are being crushed by the space they are in rather than supporting it fully. This production had such great an energy that the space was exploding out from them. Although some credit must go to the sound designers, I was pleasantly surprised to find the small cast completely filled the space with their voices.
The actors were able to use their physical presence to fill the stage as well. Miss Hannigan was by far the best at this. She held her ground when angry, but also flounced around the stage when she was excited or mocking the proper Grace Farrell (Ashley Edler).
To sum it all up, this show is one colossal whale of a show that captures the traditional essence of Broadway. Very presentational by nature, but even if you have scene Annie a thousand times; you’re guaranteed to be entertained.