By Erika Brown Thomas
The Great Depression serves as the setting for one of Broadway’s most loved musicals, Annie – a show about an intrepid orphaned girl navigating her way around the corrupt and inept systems of the time. Systems that worked against the poor, hungry, and homeless victims of the stock market crash.
Lake Forest’s Citadel Theatre presents this show with a large cast of talented actors moved around the teeny stage by masterful Director Robert D. Estrin.
Sophie Kaegi and Kayla Norris alternate as Annie with the latter actress playing the title role at the press opening. Norris tackles the infamous belting tessitura of “Tomorrow” with fabulous technique and an innate musical sense. She does well interacting and handling her furry friend, Sandy (Tod Doodle).
A talented and alternating supporting cast of girls play the orphans and each does an impeccable job. “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” numbers are truly enjoyable with great singing, acting and well coordinated choreography.
Everleigh Murphy stands out as the adorable and youngest resident of the orphanage, Molly. Her acting prowess belies her young age (just seven years old) and her natural red hair will serve as an opportunity to perhaps play Annie herself in the upcoming years!
Perhaps one of the best and most complicated villains of the stage, Miss Agatha Hannigan (Evelyn Phelps) summons forth giggles, groans and applause as she stumbles her way with hidden flasks around the stage. There is the horror that such a person could be in charge of innocent children mixed with pity her for her addiction and the low place in society that has been her lot. Phelps treads the incredibly fine line that all villains must very well – admired for her talent while playing a dislikable character.
Miss Hannigan’s cohorts in crime, her brother, Rooster (Kyle Ryan)and his partner, Lily St. Regis – “named after the hotel” (Becca Duff) help Phelps to bring the house down with their rendition of a villain’s torch song, “Easy Street.” Ryan has a larger than life presence on the stage and an incredible voice.
Chamaya Moody is the extremely competent Miss Grace Farrell, right hand woman to the billionaire, Oliver Warbucks (John B. Boss). Her silvery soprano notes ring out and Moody exudes a grace truly befitting her characters name. Boss presents a wonderful character arc as the irascible, money guy to a man gentled by the genuine love, trust and needs of a child.
A constantly quick-changing ensemble bolsters the storyline as they morph from people living in Hoovervilles to servants at the Warbucks mansion to citizens of the great NYC and many more.
This family friendly show is housed in an intimate space that will ensure audiences of all ages are engaged from start to finish.
Citadel Theatre presents “Annie” with performances running now though January 5, 2020, at 300 S Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest. More information and tickets are available here. Photos by Carolina Menapace.