Tomorrow Comes for Annie Warbucks
This recent concert production was directed by Martin Charnin, lyricist/director (with composer Charles Strouse and book writer Thomas Meehan) of both Annie and Annie Warbucks, who now resides in nearby Issaquah. He put together a cast of children he said he would be happy to bring to Broadway to perform, if he could. The ensemble includes Lauren Carlos, Claire Costanza, Olivia Spokoiny, Cameron Washington, Ellis Cox-McAllister, Shaye Hodgins, Eliza Ludlam, Shelby Willis and Madison Willis (sisters).
Katie Griffith, 11 years old, was an outstanding Annie with a pure, clear voice, a sweet acting persona and the potential for a big career. She held her own with the other theater vets as if she'd been acting on big stages all her young life. Bobbi Kotula crunched up and spit out the nasty role of Commissioner Doyle, the New York social worker who made up that marriage rule just to help her daughter become Daddy Warbucks' wife. Said daughter was the lovely Shelly Burch, Mr. Charnin's real life wife, who nailed her solo of "I Love My Mommy" with aplomb. Hugh Hastings played Daddy Warbucks and his warm, commanding presence held everything together.
New to Showtunes! from New York was Iris Elton, whose solo, "Love," was a wonderful interpretation of a song that had potential to be a break-out single from the musical. While these are just some of the best moments, it's a very large cast, full of good performances from all.
Costumes were uncredited, but they dug up some great ones from somewhere, and for this show, probably rented a few tuxedos. In a post performance Q&A, Martin Charnin said that the wig and dress that Katie wore were from the Broadway Annie and the dress cost $4000. Choreography was fairly extensive, especially for the little girl troupe, and was cheekily done by Mo Brady for fun effect.
Mark Rabe was the music director and pianist, with a nice ensemble of woodwinds, trumpet and trombone, played by his band of five. This gave the accompaniment a rich sound.
As usual at Showtunes!, the production bubbled along and the crowd, including many young 'uns, had a great time. All of their performances are top notch. The musicals Showtunes! presents are some of the lesser known, and sometimes the book or score tell why, but in this case, Annie Warbucks was a triumph of style and content. The book even had some almost too topical references to present day politics that made 1993, when it was written, some kind of prognosticator!
Annie Warbucks ran October 11 and 12. Showtunes! Theatre Company continues its 2008-2009 season with the Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty musical A Man of No Importance January 24 at 8p.m. and January 25 at 2p.m., and Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart's Mack & Mabel, May 16 at 8p.m. and May 17 at 2p.m.. All performances at Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Avenue. For further on-line information visit the Showtunes! website www.showtunestheatre.org.