By Estelle Sobel Erasmus
My husband was feeling ill (with remnants of a stomach bug) the evening we had tickets to Annie last week. Not wanting to sit in a Broadway theater alone last-minute watching one of my favorite shows from childhood, I gently reminded him of the time I attended one of his colleague’s child’s birthday parties in my early days of pregnancy while suffering from acute morning sickness; and this summer when I dragged myself out of bed, to go out-of- state while feeling feverish (I was later diagnosed with bronchitis) to attend another work-related party.
I prevailed and thankfully we both enjoyed sitting in the Palace Theatre watching the amazing performances in Annie. (I even think the extra dose of optimism offered by the feel-good show made him get better right away-how else to describe why he was back to his healthy self the next morning?)
I remember when Andrea McArdle played Annie back in 1977, 35 years ago. This revival of the musical story of a curly-haired ginger-haired orphan who meets and changes the life of a billionaire (and helps President Franklin Roosevelt decide on a New Deal) during the Great Depression is directed by Tony award winner James Lapine.
The magic of the story I remember from my childhood has stood the test of time.
The curly-haired heroine is normally played by Lilla Crawford, who was absent that day. However, the can-do attitude and aptitude of her understudy, Taylor Richardson impressed me.
Anthony Warlow as the bark-is-worse-than-his-bite industrialist Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks wows. The Australian actor with an operatically-trained voice is a self-proclaimed “vocal colorist” and his renditions of “N.Y.C.” and “Something Was Missing” are beautiful, and moves the story forward. His version of Daddy Warbucks has a clear connection with his little co-star as well as a palpable hint of romantic chemistry with his personal assistant, played by Brynn O’Malley (Broadway’s Wicked, Sunday in the Park With George) as Warbucks’ personal assistant, Grace Farrell.
Two-time Tony Award winner Katie Finneran (Noises Off and Promises, Promises) plays the boozing Miss Hannigan as a down-on-her-luck, once femme fatale who has seen better days (unlike the more cartoonlike renditions by previous Miss Hannigan’s Carol Burnett and Bernadette Peters). She has run out of options, hates kids (particularly the opinionated Annie), which is why she is happy to concoct a scheme with her ne’er-do-well brother and his not-too-bright gal pal to rob Warbucks of his bucks and help them land on the proverbial “Easy Street.”
There is even a sweet back story behind the role of Annie’s dog Sandy, played by Sunny, a two-year-old terrier mix who was discovered literally a day before he was about to be euthanized.
Given the turmoil we face in our country now, the chaos and the dysfunctional state of the nation, and the “fiscal cliff” we’re about to fall off of, this tale of New York City set in the 1930’s, feels mighty current to me. More importantly we need that anthem of hope, best memorialized in the song (which by the way, I challenge you to stop singing),
“Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I Love Ya. Tomorrow. You’re Always a Day Away.”
For more about the new Broadway production, visit AnnieTheMusical.com.
Disclosure: We received two tickets to attend the show and review Annie. The opinions shared here however, are all mine.