Fresh from its latest Broadway outing, this 20th anni production of “Annie” never transcends the predictable and sometimes plodding panel-by-panel depiction of the misadventures of America’s favorite orphan but is bolstered by Charles Strouse’s lively score, a sprightly and engaging outing by 9-year-old Brittny Kissinger and a hilarious, over-the-top caricature by Sally Struthers (as Miss Hannigan).
The 20th anni production of the lightweight musical “Annie” reunites the original director/choreographer team of Martin Charnin (who also wrote the lyrics) and Peter Gennaro. Fresh from its latest Broadway outing, the show never transcends the predictable and sometimes plodding panel-by-panel depiction of the misadventures of America’s favorite orphan but is bolstered by Charles Strouse’s lively score, a sprightly and engaging outing by 9-year-old Brittny Kissinger and a hilarious, over-the-top caricature by Sally Struthers (as Miss Hannigan).
Set in New York City during the Depression days of 1933, Thomas Meehan’s book offers no surprises as the determined Annie, the comic strip heroine with the big dog and even bigger voice, escapes the slovenly clutches of New York Municipal Orphanage director, Miss Hannigan, and miraculously lands in the lap of luxury as the adopted daughter of multi-billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Conrad John Schuck).
Along the way, Annie saves her orphan friends, triumphs over the efforts of Hannigan and her con man brother, Rooster (Laurent Giroux), to scam Warbucks, and even helps a beleaguered President F.D.R. (Ron Wisniski) to discover a “New Deal” for America.
Kissinger makes herself at home as Annie, offering a sensitive and introspective, “Maybe” as the orphanage-enslaved young girl yearns for the parents she has never known. Later, after Annie’s escape, Kissinger sails effortlessly through the perennial showstopper, the ever-optimistic “Tomorrow.”
Struthers’ malevolently hyperactive Miss Hannigan pushes the seams of caricature to the breaking point, but her exquisite comic timing sees her through nicely in her dealings with the less-than-reverent orphan girls and in her shenanigans with her brother, Rooster. Struthers, Grioux and Karen Byers-Blackwell (as Rooster’s trollop friend, Lily) offer one of the evening’s highlights as they raucously tear their way through “Easy Street.”
Schuck is not quite up to the vocal demands of the show, warbling tentatively through “N.Y.C.” and the plaintive “Something Was Missing.” But, especially in light of the current political situation, his adroit portrayal of the staunchly conservative industrialist gets some of the biggest laughs of the evening.
The six orphan girls (Victoria & Marissa Pontecorvo, Jane Bailey Patterson, Jamie Hughes, Tanya Desko and Bonnie Gleicher) are small in numbers but make up for it in talent and vitality as they rip through the orphans’ lament, “It’s the Hard-Knock Life,” and the buoyant, “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.”
Six-year-old Victoria Pontecorvo is especially appealing as the diminutive but spunky Molly, who renders a devastating parody of the always besotted Miss Hannigan.