Music by Charles Strouse with Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Director/Choreographer: Rachel Rockwell
Scenic Designer: Linda Buchanan
Costume Designer: Theresa Ham
Sound Designer: Jeff Dublinske
Music Direction: Evan Rea
First Rate Holiday Extravaganza
With a huge cast including one member as young as seven years old, a real dog, and a live orchestra, the Paramount in Aurora offers a first-rate extravaganza for the holidays that most can surely enjoy.
It’s probably no accident that “Annie”, set in 1933 at the height of the depression, opened on Broadway in 1977 during an economically down time, when the U.S. struggled with high inflation, gasoline shortages and other social and political problems, not unlike some challenges of today. So, the appeal of “Annie” and its universally relevant values help sustain it as a classic. And the Paramount presents it in just that way. You are guaranteed a feel good message of a brighter tomorrow, the importance of family, and a song that you can hum on the way out of the theater.
Annie, played by Caroline Heffernan, seems slightly more modern than the era, slightly older than eleven, and sings some of her songs in a more modern pop style; but her acting fills the role very well. The other orphans, as well as butlers, maids and other adults do a superb job vocally.
For an excellent actress such as Christine Sherrill, however, her Miss Hannigan congealed as an over wrought caricature carrying her prop of spirits throughout most of her scenes. Playing one of the villains, Miss Hannigan’s screams were amplified way beyond necessary…one of the sound difficulties of the production not only with Miss Hannigan, but with other performers as well. If there is a technical sound problem, one hopes it can be rectified soon for future productions. After the orphanage scenes, a trip to Oliver Warbuck’s mansion switches the show into a true musical. Aural relief comes from Warbuck’s secretary Grace, played exquisitely by Emily Rohm, with a perfectly enjoyable voice.
Gene Weygandt as Oliver (Daddy) Warbuck supplies a grounding throughout the show with a great voice, and variety of songs and moods. He even sways with a little soft shoe, but dancing plays a small role in the whole production. The orphans do move with a little dance about the stage, hit their marks, and are quite convincing as children frolicking at their age levels.
The role of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, well played by Don Richard, along with other actual names from history give an interesting touch of reality to the story, as they sing in the oval office. And a shining light of the night comes from seven year old, Ava Morse, playing Molly. Hers is an easier voice on the ears, not amplified as much as some of the others and her stage presence, comfort and natural acting style rings of someone much more experienced. What an amazing little package of talent she is. Her rendition of Annie would be fun to see in future years.
The story, the production and the generally fine cast are well worth the very modestly priced ticket for this extravaganza production. It can create a lasting holiday season memory for you, your family or friends. See an enjoyable evening of theater with one of the best productions around.
Date Reviewed: November 24. 2012
Paramount Theater – 8 East Galena Blvd, Aurora, IL 60506 , Performances: Nov. 21 thru Dec. 30, 2012.