“It’s a hard knock life for us.” If us means the audience, then yes. Annie is the story of an orphan who wants nothing more than to find a family. In order to get what she wants, she ditches her friends, her dog, and even Mr. Warbucks for a couple who are really shady. From faulty fly-ins to fabulous furnishing, Annie was all over the place.
Annie is a strong character, but for some reason strong in the wrong way. I used to love Annie when I was younger, but this time around I saw the story in a different light. Annie, although she’s a child, is actually really selfish. Issie Swickle plays the character with as much gusto as she can give it, but this time I heard obviously scripted lines and a shrill, nasally, belty kid voice. In fact, when all the orphans were onstage it felt like I was trapped on a deserted island with a billion seagulls squawking their lines. I totally get where Miss Hannigan (Lynn Andrews) is coming from. Andrews performance as Miss Hannigan was one of the strongest.
Other adults who stood out were Rooster (Garrett Deagon), Mr. Warbucks (Gilgamesh Taggett), and President Roosevelt (Allan Baker). Deagon made me want to go and shower after his slimey Rooster routine. Easy street? More like sleazy street. Taggett nailed the transformation from a grumpy businessman to a loving father figure. Baker, my personal favorite, provided an excellent comic relief as the president.
The orphans are supposed to be the focus of the show, but I found myself waiting for the scenes when the full ensemble was onstage. As a group they filled the whole theater with harmonies and emotion. In fact, the best vocal performance came from Meghan Seaman in NYC.
The technical elements were just like the cast- uneven in appearance. From the dark and dingy orphanage to the beautiful New York skyline, this set was thought out, but the performance was greatly affected by the few mess-ups, whether they be opening night jitters or just plain mistakes. From the fly-in of the Roxy Theater sign crashing into a very fake bus to the drop at the beginning of the show opening too early, these kinds of things, though seemingly minor, had me questioning the professionalism of the show.
There’s an old saying in show business, “Never work with kids or animals.” The “awwww” factor is built in, but I found myself zoning out as the “Little girls” screeched their big numbers. Annie was uneven in both acting and technical elements. As the song in the second act says, “Something was missing” and in this case, I couldn’t agree more.