Arielle Tepper Madover, Roger Horchow,
Sally Horchow, Roger Berlind, Roy Furman
Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Directed by James Lapine
Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler
Katie Finneran, Anthony Warlow, Lilla Crawford
Brynn O’Malley, Clarke Thorell, J. Elaine Marcos
And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers
Broadway and 47th Street
Scenic Design: David Korins
Costume Design: Susan Hilferty
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Projection Design: Wendell K. Harrington
Hair Design: Tom Watson
Animal Trainer: William Berloni
Casting: Telsey + Company,
Patrick Goodwin, CSA
Music Director/Vocal Arrangements: Todd Ellison
Orchestrations: Michael Starobin
Dance Music Arrangements: Alex Lacamoire
Musical Coordinator: Patrick Vaccariello
Marketing: bdb Marketing
Sponsorship: Rose Polidoro
Exec. Producer: 101 Productions, Ltd.
Production Supervisor: Peter Lawrence
Production Manager: David Benken
Associate Director: Mark Schneider
Associate Choreographer: Rachel Bress
Company Manager: Heidi Neven
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 14, 2012
Arriving alone for Annie at the Palace, I was quite apprehensive showing up without a kid along. It seemed that it would be a show too cute and juvenile by far, leaving a solo adult to feel like a distant observer at American Girl Place. But, within moments, I was fully drawn in, mesmerized, leaning forward, not to miss a word or note. James Lapine has a hit on his hands, and he has tremendous help from a quintessentially engaging cast, natural, youthful choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, the visually descriptive tenement and mansion by David Korins, bright Christmas finery by Susan Hilferty, sizable, well defined background silhouettes by Donald Holder, resonant, rousing acoustics by Brian Ronan, and fascinating projections by Wendell K. Harrington. In fact, Mr. Lapine is rewarded with a well-behaved, but mangy “Sandy”, a dog that was actually rescued from a shelter by animal trainer, William Berloni.
Mr. Lapine’s production is all New York, with Annie (Lilla Crawford) enunciating in street-smart New Yorkese. Her accent was instantly noticeable and instantly beguiling. The initial orphanage scenes, as Annie sings “Maybe” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life”, add youthful vibrancy to the stage, with about a half dozen cherubs wowing the crowd. Emily Rosenfeld, as Molly, immediately caught my eye, with her spritely, cartoonish antics. Katie Finneran, as Miss Hannigan, the owner of the orphanage who morphs into Cinderella’s step-mother, was equally inebriated, but all woman, all show-stopping bravura. Ms. Finneran played the role as a lonely single woman, looking for a lucky break, who takes out her frustration by whistling at her brood to scrub the floor with their tummy mops. Her vocals were shining in “Little Girls” and especially in “Easy Street”. When Ms. Finneran is onstage, all eyes are riveted.
Annie’s savior, Oliver Warbucks (Anthony Warlow), like Miss Hannigan, was looking, unbeknownst to him, for closeness. This is truly a show in the Holiday spirit, and one everyone can relate to. Mr. Warlow was a magnanimous presence onstage, especially in fine suits and coats, and his solo, “Something Was Missing”, brought the house down. Each gesture was refined for emotional nuance, even as he shaped up his longtime secretary, Grace Farrell (Brynn O’Malley), at the curtain closer. Miss Farrell, transfiguring from stern to sensual, was the third character looking for love. Clarke Thorell plays Miss Hannigan’s post-prison brother Rooster Hannigan with requisite menace, and his “Easy Street” reprise, with Ms. Finneran and J. Elaine Marcos, as his girlfriend, Lily, was dynamic. Merwin Foard is the very confident likeness of FDR, coming to the remarkable aid of his friend, Warbucks, as he joins Annie, Warbucks, and FDR’s recreated Cabinet in the reprise of “Tomorrow”, a tune that still rewinds in my head.
The Thomas Meehan book is more than the usual feel-good theme. It’s a timeless and inspiring tale of resilience and survival. Charles Strouse’s music and Martin Charnin’s lyrics make every number memorable and ebullient, particularly with Todd Ellison leading the orchestra. But, in rethinking the gestalt of this night at the theatre, I focus on Lilla Crawford, as a star is born. Kudos to all.