Regional Reviews: San Francisco
I won't even tell you how many times I have seen this show, going all the way back to the summer of 1977 when I saw a young Andrea McArdle play Annie at the Alvin Theatre. The current touring production is under the auspices of Troika Entertainment, LLC and features a splendid cast of adult actors and cute little kids to play the orphans.
For those who don't know about Annie, it takes place in 1933 in New York City during the Christmas season. Annie is in an orphanage run by the evil Miss Hannigan. This little waif is adopted for Christmas by kind Daddy Warbucks, a billionaire and a Republican. Of course other things happen in the plot to make it interesting, but that's it in a nut shell.
Music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin are upbeat. Some are very catchy and memorable like the standard "Tomorrow." There are good production numbers like "It's a Hard-Knock Life," which rails against child labor, and the production number "N.Y.C.," which always reminds me of the opening scene of Guys and Dolls. Liza Gennaro's choreography, adapted from the original dances of her father Peter Gennaro, is lively and peppy.
Issie Swickle is very good as Annie. She has powerful vocal cords, especially in "It's a Hard-Knock Life" and "N.Y.C.". She offers a perceptive and thoughtful "Maybe" and has thematic reverberation in "Tomorrow." Gilgamesh Taggett is a tough but sweet Daddy Warbucks. He has a good strong voice in " N.Y.C.," "You Won't be an Orphan for Long," and in his solo "Something Was Missing."
Lynn Andrews is outstanding as Miss Hannigan. She plays the evil head of the orphanage straight out of a Dickens novel. Andrews beautifully hams it up on "Easy Street" with prevailing vocal cords. It is an over-the-top performance of the character. Garrett Deagon as Rooster the sleazy brother gives a grand performance. With his long legs he rocks, singing the reprise of "Easy Street." His partner in crime Lily is played convincingly by Lucy Werner. Jeffrey B. Duncan is first rate playing F.D.R., with a flawless accent. Ashley Edler brings shiny panache to Daddy Warbucks' assistant Grace.
The large adult cast plays multiple roles as Hooverville residents, Warbucks' domestic staff, and politicians with fervent self-confidence. The orphans are adorable; however, their voices become a little too high pitched in the opening scenes.
Annie is a lightweight show, but this production will appeal to parents and kids who have never seen it before.
Annie continues its run at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street, San Francisco through June 14th . For tickets call 88-746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit http://anniethemusical.com. Coming up next is Matilda the Musical opening at the Orpheum Theatre on July 15 and running through August 15th.