Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
If you bring youthful patrons, be prepared to explain many of the historical references and quips, some of which even younger adults may not know. Eleven-year-old Annie (Alina Kingwill Peterson or Evelyn Goodwin) is determined to find the parents who left her on the New York city orphanage steps years before. After one failed runaway, Annie escapes the tyrannical orphanage director Miss Hannigan (Daniela Innocenti-Beem) by becoming a temporary adoptee at the home of famous billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Larry Williams).
Meant to stay for only two weeks, Annie's charms and native intelligence win the hearts of Warbucks, his secretary Grace (Morgan Harrington), and all his staff. But when he proposes to adopt her, she can't see beyond her desire for her own real parents, and Warbucks launches a full-scale FBI search, offering a hefty reward and reaching all the way to the Presidency (Steve Thorpe as Franklin D. Roosevelt). Miss Hannigan, her brother Rooster (Jeff Coté), and his girlfriend Lily (Lydia Revelos) concoct a scheme to cash in, and thereby hangs the rest of the tale.
As trite and predictable as the story might be, regional, community, and school productions of Annie remain an important training ground for aspiring actresses and provide countless opportunities for modeling teamwork and confidence. In productions like the one at 6th Street, children have the rare chance to work alongside seasoned adult performers in a valuable apprenticeship. Perhaps this is reason enough to continue mounting a chestnut like Annie, for each generation to learn fromand young audiences get a glimpse of a time of great upheaval in American history.
The cast I saw featured Peterson as Annie, suitably feisty and lovable, with a strong musical theatre voice. Unfortunately, the real dog playing Sandy gave her issues in her signature number, but she handled his interference well and kept singing like a pro. Innocenti-Beem as Hannigan is over-the-top funny, a hoot of a brute, mistress of a thousand comic expressions and powerhouse vocals. Williams delights in a relatively straight role, subtly conveying the tough Warbucks' transition to softened Daddy. Harrington is perfect for Grace, with her winsome but firm demeanor and gorgeous soprano. Coté and Revelos pair well as the sleazy duo, showing their chops in "Easy Street."
Most of the ensemble tackle multiple roles, and it becomes fun to see them in different incarnations. The orphan girls exhibit many skills and talents in their frequent appearances, and a few play other roles as well. Standouts include Thorpe as FDR, Trevor Hoffmann as Burt Healy, Dwayne Stincelli as Drake, and Patrice Evans as Mrs. Pugh.
Director Michael Fontaine creates good-looking stage pictures, and music director Sonia Tubridy overall manages well the band and vocals, although random issues with cues and pitches plagued the performance I saw. Scenic design by Jeff Thomson suits each locale with appealing set pieces, but scene changes add considerable length to the show. Costumes by Pamela Johnson are an enormous undertaking for such a large cast, demands for period, and for differing scenes and characters, and she has captured all with a discriminating palette. Annie's hair change midstream is a bit perplexingthere have been other straight-haired Annies, going against the original cartoon image, but altering her hairstyle halfway through seems odd.
Join the patrons of all ages hoping for a feel-good holiday experience and you won't be disappointed. Annie and her timeless message provide an uplifting few hours, and songs to hum for days.
Annie, through December 22, 2018, at 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa CA. Tickets $22.00-$35.00 can be purchased online at www.6thstreetplayhouse.com or by phone at 707-523-4185 ext. 1