REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Annie – The non-Equity National Tour 2014-15

Book by Thomas MeehanAnnie_200x200_Tonys

Music by Charles Strouse

Lyrics by Martin Charnin

Directed by Martin Charnin

Choreographer Liza Gennaro

Musical Direction by Keith Levenson

At the Palace Theatre, Chicago

Annie ‘s score fuels the cartoon fable come to life

No matter how many times I’ve seen Annie, I always enjoy the show. Why? Because of the great tunes, or because I like cartoon fables with a fine message? Annie is a warm, sweet old-time Broadway musical with lots of heart. That may be enough. The optimism in Annie is contagious.

Annie the Musical

Leapin’ Lizards! America’s most beloved musical, Annie, is back, playing at the Palace Theatre through November 30, 2014 giving a whole new generation the chance to experience this classic musical about never giving up. The many young girls in the audience seemed to love Annie.

This ageless 1930’s fable is a beloved classic old-time Broadway musical that leaves you humming the melodies as you leave the theatre.
Annie, with music by Charles Strouse and book by Thomas Meehan, is again directed by its lyricist, Martin Charnin, who brought the original production of Annie to Broadway in 1977. Set designer Beowulf  Boritt has created a new look for this production. The 8 member orchestra sounded terrific proving that live musicians sound better than canned music. This national touring production is a sort of Annie lite with fewer children and fewer ensemble members than most productions I’ve seen. The quality of some of the cast members reflects this low budget non-Equity cast.

This Annie has adequate children led by the presence of Issie Swickle as Annie. She wins us over quickly as she leads the kids in “It’s the Hard-Knock Life.” Her strong voice allowed her to nail the keynote song “Tomorrow” that is most identified with this musical.

Lynn Andrews plays the child-hating Miss Hannigan with desperate comic aplomb. Andrews is the hilarious villain we all love. Gilgamesh Taggett, as Daddy Warbucks, has the command of the stage and the booming vocals with loads of heart that gives the billionaire credibility.  The ensemble is filled with adequate song and dance players that are so smooth that they seem to glide across the stage deftly nailing their songs and short quips. They almost make up for their lack of numbers with smart work.

This light-weight production has enough energy and a swift pace that propels its warmth, charm and cuteness directly into our hearts. The songs are catchy, period perfect and universal.Who doesn’t know “Easy Street” and the signature song of eternal optimism “Tomorrow”? Charles Strouse’s score is filled with 30’s style Broadway songs like “N.Y.C,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and “Maybe.”
The audience seemed to enjoy this low budget Annie yet at $105 for the best seats, audiences are paying for Equity talent but they are getting non-Equity performers. There is a notable difference. This is a dangerous trend that eventually will get theatre patrons upset. Bus and truck productions like this one should be priced accordingly -not at Equity prices

Somewhat Recommended
Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: November 18, 2014

At the Palace Theatre, 170 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL, call 800-775-2000, , tickets $25 to $105, through November 30, 2014