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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Annie

Also see Susan's review of every tongue confess

The sun has come out. The first-class production of Annie playing through the holidays at the Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington truly earns its laughter and emotion, thanks to sure-handed direction by Mark Waldrop and a talented cast.

Since just about everyone knows the 1977 musical by Charles Strouse (music), Martin Charnin (lyrics), and Thomas Meehan (book) about the adorable redheaded orphan (Caitlin Deerin) and gruff billionaire Oliver Warbucks (George Dvorsky)—and, yes, that one song in particular—what's so special about this production? For one thing, Waldrop has achieved a high level of commitment from every member of his large cast, many of whom have to switch from one role to another in what seems like seconds. Another element is that Olney is using the original Broadway sets by Ming Cho Lee, ranging from the skewed gray walls of Annie's orphanage to the trompe l'oeil splendor of Warbucks' mansion, and Theoni Aldredge's vivid original costumes.

What people too often forget about Annie is that its optimism isn't blind. It's the story of a little orphan girl fighting hard to maintain her positive attitude in genuinely grim circumstances: it's the winter of 1933, the Depression has hit New York City hard, and Annie is determined to find the parents who left her at the dank orphanage. Her search takes her into the unforgiving streets and through a shanty town of the homeless unemployed before she lands fortuitously in the home of the wealthiest (but lonely) man in the world.

Deerin is clear-eyed and straightforward, with a brassy singing voice that evokes the original Annie, Andrea McArdle. She's completely focused, never falling into cutesy mannerisms, and she commands attention whenever she's onstage. The other orphans complement her well, especially adorable little Molly (Sadie Rose Herman, alternating 0with Heidi Kaplan), who does get the opportunity to steal hearts.

Waldrop has assembled a powerful core group of performers in the key roles. Dvorsky brings a mellifluous baritone voice and a solid physical presence to Warbucks, the man who never knew what was missing in his life until he met Annie. Channez McQuay is a riotous Miss Hannigan, both vicious and amusingly predatory—even kittenish—around any potentially eligible man, and Carrie A. Johnson is all class as Warbucks' secretary, Grace Farrell. Bobby Smith is sleek and menacing as Rooster Hannigan; Jenna Sokolowski makes the most of her every appearance as deliciously tacky Lily St. Regis; and Rob McQuay is easygoing and confident as FDR. And, of course, there's Sandy: Abby, who alternates with Tanner, is an audience favorite.

So, yes, this Annie is not innovative, but audiences probably won't see a better production of the show.

Olney Theatre Center
Annie
November 17th January 2nd, 2011
Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Molly: Heidi Kaplan/Sadie Rose Herman
Pepper: Adalia Jimenez/Nia Smith
Duffy: Kylie Sage Cooley/Lily Discepolo
July: Rachel Olivia Condliffe/Jacqueline Kempa
Tessie: Sydney Maloney/Colette Youstra
Annie: Caitlin Deerin
Kate: Madeline Heyman/Carolyn Youstra
Miss Hannigan: Channez McQuay
Bundles: Alan Hoffman
Dog Catcher: Andrew Sonntag
Officer Ward: Jason Lott
Sophie the Kettle: Janet Aldrich
Apple Seller: James Konicek
Grace Farrell: Carrie A. Johnson
Drake: James Konicek
Mrs. Greer: Janet Aldrich
Mrs. Pugh: Jamie Ogden
Oliver Warbucks: George Dvorsky
Star to Be: Autumn Seavey
Roxy Usherette: Jenna Sokolowski
Rooster Hannigan: Bobby Smith
Lily St. Regis: Jenna Sokolowski
Bert Healy: Andrew Sonntag
Sound Effects Man: Bobby Smith
Fred McCracken: Alan Hoffman
Jimmy Johnson: Jason Lott
Bonnie Boylan: Janet Aldrich
Connie Boylan: Jamie Ogden
Ronnie Boylan: Allie Parris
Kaltenborn's Voice: Jason Lott
Ickes: Andrew Sonntag
Frances Perkins: Janet Aldrich
Hull: Alan Hoffman
Morganthau: Jason Lott
FDR: Rob McQuay
Howe: Leo Christopher Sheridan
Justice Brandeis: Alan Hoffman
Sandy: Abby/Tanner
Ensemble: Janet Aldrich, John Dellaporta, Alan Hoffman, James Konicek, Jason Lott, Rob McQuay, Jamie Ogden, Allie Parris, Autumn Seavey, Leo Christopher Sheridan, Bobby Smith, Jenna Sokolowski, Andrew Sonntag
Directed by Mark Waldrop
Choreographer: Tara Jeanne Vallee
Musical director: Christopher Youstra
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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