In the midst of our nation’s worst depression struggling Americans unite in Hoovervilles scavenging for resources to survive. Political leaders searched similarly for solutions, but not in a similar setting. A broad-shouldered, bald man enters to face the president and his emotionally glum cabinet dressed in dull shades hand-in-hand with an eleven-year-old girl. Wearing a white dress showing bright blue accenting, this contrastingly cheery red head is able to completely transform a conference room of hopelessness to one fostering a bright future. Her white smile shines even to the back rows of the Orpheum as FDR and his cabinet hilariously join her in a reprise of ‘Tomorrow’ and subsequently change their attitudes to form the New Deal.
This is the sort of magic that can be experienced while following Annie’s heartfelt journey from an orphan to the daughter of a billionaire at the Orpheum from March 31st-April 5th. If even the president loves her, how could you not?
After suffering rejections and smaller roles in this same show, it is now clear Issie Swickle’s dedication and determination has paid off as she takes the stage in this form of Annie. We first meet Annie in Miss Hannigan’s dump of an orphanage, but are immediately exposed to her great optimism that continues throughout in the first song ‘Maybe’ despite the dirty, grey walls and clutter that surround her.
Very striking was the actors’ chemistry and energy on stage. Whether it was Miss Hannigan (Lynn Andrews) plotting and dancing with her comrades Rooster and Lily or Annie spending quality time with Mr. Warbucks or the orphans, interactions had such a genuine feeling. Getting over the fact that the orphans were expected to play ages seemingly much younger than themselves, they were cast well for their ability to interact with one another. Even when forcing a high pitched song about their ‘hard-knock life’ while wearing faded patchwork clothes the orphans had a chemistry that made you want to jump out of your seat and join them! The sandy-colored dog didn’t exactly seem to keen to be in front of hundreds and sweating under bright lights however, but that’s just a risk that comes with animal usage, and you’ll probably be too distracted by the gushing to notice he’s not having the time of his life.
This version matched all preconceptions I had coming into the show so in this regard, Director Martin Charnin seemed to be given little to no creative power or simply chose for it to overall remain the same. It is the expected version. However, with a classic story such as this I don’t believe it need to be or should have been different. It has timeless cultural importance and the themes it teaches have everlasting relevance.
Inspiring, captivating and heart-warming this production of Annie is for both adults and children and will doubtless make you forget about your troubles. To think I was upset when I ripped my favorite jacket today; Annie didn’t even have a jacket.