By Erika Brown Thomas
With emotions running high this week after an exhausting political season, there is no time like the present to take advantage of the amazing theatre communities that call Chicago home. One such opportunity can only be seen today or, as the iconic ballad is entitled, “Tomorrow.” The national touring production of Annie returns for a short run at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Directed by Martin Charnin (original lyricist and director) and choreographed by Liza Gennaro (daughter of original choreographer, Peter Gennaro), this show is alive with whimsy and wonder.
Beowulf Britt (scenic design) and Suzy Benzinger (costume design) provide an incredible Depression era aesthetic, capable of stifling most spirits, thus setting up the great contrast of Annie’s indomitable courage and her ability to summon forth unflappable optimism in the face of adversity.
Gillgamesh Taggett reprises his role as Oliver Warbucks and truly, he is suited to the part as sure as his character’s name belies the opulent wealth of “Daddy Warbucks.” His delivery of lines that could easily be found cheesy and affected are instead natural and endearing. He is equally matched to Ms. Grace Farrrell, portrayed by Casey Prins. Together they carry the show from entrance to exit and their performances alone make the ticket worthwhile.
Tori Bates makes her national tour debut as the precocious orphan Annie and perhaps most memorable, is her red wig which makes her identity unmistakable from any part of the stage.
Erin Fish plays the irascible mistress of the orphanage, Miss Hannigan. Fish lacks the rancor associated so often with this character and instead leans heavily toward the comedic foils of the clever orphans surrounding her.
A high-powered and energetic ensemble fills out the quota of characters required by the orphan’s journey to find her true home.
At face value, Broadway in Chicago’s production of Annie hearkens us back to a time when it all “seemed simpler.” But upon closer inspection, there are many complexities explored that are especially relevant today. Watching the most unlikely of pairs, a poor orphan and a rich billionaire, come together through simple kindnesses sends hope out into the world. No matter what credit of “emotional depth” this show is normally given, infusions of happiness and hope irrigate the soul.
And of course, Happiness and hope portend a good future for…tomorrow.
Broadway in Chicago presents “Annie” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through November 13. More infomration and tickets are available here.