Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Twelfth Night, Crazy for You, and Nina Simone: Four Women

Kevin McAllister and
Noelle Robinson

Photo by Stan Barouh
Olney Theatre Center's production of Annie boasts a spectacular lead performance by Noelle Robinson, solid support from Kevin McAllister as Oliver Warbucks, and enough girl power to please the young crowds who are sure to come see it. The production itself is less inspired, however, and a bit of a letdown after Olney and Round House Theatre's In the Heights—or, for that matter, Olney's memorable 2010 Annie.

Everything is professional enough and runs smoothly, but somehow director Jason King Jones hasn't found the spark that lifts the production beyond the ordinary. Working with an enormous cast, he seems to think busyness is the same as pacing, while Rachel Leigh Dolan's choreography is relentless, even exhausting, rather than high-spirited.

Perhaps another contributing factor is that the 2010 production used Ming Cho Lee's sumptuous original Broadway set designs and Theoni Aldredge's original costumes. In contrast, Daniel Ettinger's scenic design is sparser and designed for practicality: the bunk beds in the orphanage wheel in and out and the major set pieces in Warbucks' mansion are a staircase and a few hanging windows.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Broadway premiere of the musical by Thomas Meehan (book), Charles Strouse (music), and Martin Charnin (lyrics), and the action takes place more than 40 years before that, in 1933. To introduce the time period to young viewers, Ettinger has created projections shown during the overture that depict Herbert Hoover's election as president in 1928, the stock market crash the following year, the crippling loss of jobs and money facing the American public, and the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.

Robinson is a bundle of energy with a powerful voice; she seizes the attention from her first entrance and never lets up. McAllister ably shows Warbucks' shift from authoritarian to doting "daddy," with an upright posture and a warm, rich voice. Rachel Zampelli is amusingly frantic as mean Miss Hannigan, but Dolan underuses Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Tony Award winner as Angel in Rent) as Hannigan's sleazy brother Rooster. The standout from the ensemble is Karl Kippola, who steals focus first as Drake the butler and later as a member of FDR's cabinet who discovers he enjoys singing.

Olney Theatre Center
November 10th - December 31st, 2017
Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Based on "Little Orphan Annie"® By Permission of Tribune Content Agency LLC
Annie: Noelle Robinson, Vivian Poe (at select performances)
Molly: Kylee Hope Geraci or Olivia McMahon
Pepper: Anaïs Killian or Sissy Sheridan
Duffy: Sofia A. Cruz or Simone Straub-Clark
July: Ella Coulson or Dulcie Pham
Tessie: Emily Scholl or Simone Warren
Kate: Avery Daniel or Brook Webster
Jane: Katharine Ford or Audrey Kilgore
Miss Hannigan: Rachel Zampelli
Bundles: Nurney
Apple Seller: Rob McQuay
Dog Catcher: Kenneth Derby
Assistant Dog Catcher: Jay Frisby
Sandy: Petey or Vacé
Lt. Ward: Alan Naylor
Eddie: Karl Kippola
Sophie the Kettle: Emily Madden
Grace Farrell: Patricia Hurley
Drake: Karl Kippola
Mrs. Greer: Julia Lancione
Mrs. Pugh: Ashleigh King
Cecile: Dani Stoller
Annette: Emily Madden
Oliver Warbucks: Kevin McAllister
A Star to Be: Ashleigh King
Rooster Hannigan: Wilson Jermaine Heredia
Lily: Dani Stoller
Bert Healy: Alan Naylor
Fred McCracken: Karl Kippola
Jimmy Johnson: Jay Frisby
Sound Effects Man: Nurney
Bonnie Boylan: Emily Madden
Connie Boylan: Julia Lancione
Ronnie Boylan: Ashleigh King
FDR: Rob McQuay
Ickes: Karl Kippola
Perkins: Ashleigh King
Howe: Nurney
Morgenthau: Alan Naylor
Hull: Kenneth Derby
Honor Guard: Jay Frisby
Justice Brandeis: Kenneth Derby
Ensemble: Kenneth Derby, Jay Frisby, Karl Kippola, Ashleigh King, Julia Lancione, Emily Madden, Alan Naylor, Nurney
Swings: Christie Farrell, RJ Pavel
Directed by Jason King Jones
Choreographer: Rachel Leigh Dolan
Music Director: Jay Crowder
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or