I had forgotten that Annie is a Christmas show. The premise is that Mr. Warbucks, a plutocrat who still has so much money despite the Depression that FDR comes to visit him, wants to bring an orphan home for two weeks at Christmas. He expects a little orphan boy, gets little orphan Annie instead, and most of us know how it works out. It's a charming musical with one really well-known song, "Tomorrow", and several other good ones. All of them are put across with heaps of talent and camaraderie, and it's a real kick to hear "Tomorrow" sung by the president and his legendary cabinet.
The show grabs you within the first few minutes, when the orphanage girls do the "It's a Hard Knock Life" number. Where did they find such talented kids? They're all so great that it's unfair to single one of them out, but you just can't take your eyes off of pocket-sized Dakota Bohman. This is when you wish you could stop time so you could see this same group of girls perform again the next time Annie comes around. But that's what makes live performance so special: it's of the here and now only.
Emma Fuller is so professionally perfect as Annie that you'd think she was born and raised on stage. Totally composed and with strong acting and singing skills, she could be doing this part anywhere. We're lucky she lives in Albuquerque. Annie's dog Sandy, who was found wandering around a mall ten years ago and given the name Sandy, must have had this part written into her DNA. She's a total pro.
Pity the adults who have to share the stage with such talented children and a dog. But they all, every one of them, do a great job. To mention a few: Jack Nuzum as Daddy Warbucks has the physical stature the role requires, and fills the bill emotionally too; Kari Reese as Miss Hannigan, the mistress of the orphanage, is a wonderful comedienne; and David Aubrey as her low-life brother Rooster is clearly a multifaceted talent. After seeing Aubrey as Jefferson in 1776 this past summer, who would have expected this performance?
The show is crisply and wittily directed by Zane Barker and very professionally produced by Myra Cochnar. Credit should also go to, among many others, Joe Moncada for costumes, Louis Giannini for choreography, Daniel Cummings for conducting the ten-piece orchestra, and Chad Scheer for sound. (What a pleasure to hear a show in which the microphones always work, without distortion.)
It's no wonder that Annie keeps getting revived, on Broadway and all around the country. And I don't know if you can find a more enjoyable production than this one.
Annie by Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, is being presented by Landmark Musicals at the Rodey Theatre on the University of New Mexico campus. Through December 9, 2012, Fridays through Sundays. Info at landmarkmusicals.org.