Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Annie

DIRECTED BY: Karen Johnson Mortimer
PRODUCED BY: John Frost
CONDUCTED BY: Peter Casey
STARRING: Claudia Fitzgerald, Michael Cormick, Todd McKenney, Bert Newton, Nancye Hayes, Julie Goodwin
RATING: 4.5 stars

Take the whole family to see Annie - you won't be disappointed. I'm still singing Tomorrow in my head...

Based on the Harold Gray comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, the musical is set in New York during the Great Depression. Annie lives in an orphanage but refuses to give up hope that her parents will one day return for her. When she is chosen by billionaire Oliver Warbucks to spend Christmas at his mansion, Annie has the time of her life, and so does Warbucks. He wants to adopt Annie, but promises to try to find her parents, if he can, to reunite them. Warbucks offers a large reward, which prompts a trio of misfits to try to swindle the reward for themselves.

Todd McKenney may be more famous these days for being the "mean" judge on Dancing With The Stars, but let's not forget his decorated stage career. Playing evil Rooster Hannigan in Annie, he reminds us just how good he is at singing, acting and, of course, dancing. Meanwhile, Nancye Hayes provided so many laughs as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan at the orphanage and Chloe Dallimore was hilarious as the dim-witted Lily.

Julie Goodwin knocked everyone else out of the theatre with her vocal performance as Warbucks' secretary, Grace Farrell. She has previously played Christine in Phantom of the Opera so she certainly has more power in her voice than most. Bert Newton has a pivotal role as President Roosevelt and drew applause just for being his iconic self. Michael Cormick, who took over the role of Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks when Anthony Warlow left the production for Broadway to show those Americans how it's done, filled those big shoes quite nicely.

But it was Annie herself who was the most impressive. Claudia Fitzgerald is one of two girls who plays Annie. The girl from Bicton hit every note and encouraged sympathy from the audience with her performance. Saoirse Gerrish, who played orphan Molly, also had perfect comedic timing. Of course, Sandy the dog is also a stand out performer. There was lots of gushing from the audience every time he came on stage.

Musical composer Peter Casey is Australian musical theatre royalty. His orchestra was in fine form on opening night. The set design was also impressive, especially the use of replica artworks of some of the worlds most famous pieces, including the Mona Lisa, displayed in Warbucks' home. Well, Warbucks is one the richest fictional characters ever created, so why not?

My only criticism is that there were one or two scenes that could have been trimmed so that additional scenes could have been added to provide more context and insight into characters like Warbucks. Fans of the film may be disappointed in some song and dance omissions. Nonetheless, Annie is fun for the whole family, and unlike taking children to the cinema, they can actually stay awake and sit still until intermission for their toilet break. Perfect.

* Annie is now playing at Burswood Theatre.




Facts:
- The musical opened on Broadway in 1977 and has since played in more than 22 countries.
- A film version was made in 1982.
- Famous songs include It's A Hard Knock Life, Easy Street and A New Deal for Christmas.


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