By Erika Brown Thomas
Since its Broadway debut in 1977, Annie, has been a favorite musical of families around the world. Broadway in Chicago’s current production of the non-Equity national tour is no exception to the long line of beloved theatrical performances of this cherished classic.
From the moment the overture begins, under the excellent guidance of Keith Levenson, to the final drop of the curtain, the production entertains and endears viewers while calling upon iconic images and choreography as well as bringing some new and fresh comedy to the table.
One of the production’s many notable elements is its ties to the original Broadway run, with Martin Charnin (lyricist) taking the helm as director. He was part of the 1977 Tony Award-winning trio that also included Thomas Meehan (book) and Charles Strouse (music). Liza Gennaro (choreographer) gives a delightfully nostalgic nod to her father, Peter Gennaro, as she incorporates several selections from his Tony-winning choreography.
The musical takes place in the depths of the Depression as young orphan Annie lives a life of emotional and physical adventure searching for her parents. A more thorough synopsis of the musical and a history of past productions can be found here.
Issie Swickle (Annie) shines as she sings out from the roots of her carrot-topped mop to the tiptoes of her orphaned boots. Her belting is effortless and she easily hits all the sweet spots in her standout rendition of “Tomorrow.”
The ragtag crew of orphaned girls sing and dance wonderfully as they bring back the unforgettable choreography to “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” Angelina Carballo makes an adorable Molly, milking the audience for more and more laughs anytime she appears.
The unprincipled Miss Hannigan is portrayed with bravado by Lynn Andrews, who creatively and comedically gives new life to the beaten down orphanage keeper. She wins audience applause as an incredibly energetic villainess and brings the house down with her partners-in-crime, Garrett Deagon (Rooster) and Lucy Werner (Lily) during “Easy Street.”
Gilgamesh Taggett owns the stage as he gives dichotic dimensions of power and tenderness as Oliver Warbucks. It is heartwarming to watch his relationships with Annie and his assistant Grace Farrell, played by Amy Burgmaier, morph into the framework of a family. Moreover, the ensemble is made up of high quality singers that help support the numerous musical numbers.
The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt correctly indicates the poverty of the orphanage in small detail, including (among other elements) a cracked window, homemade dolls and a general unkempt feeling. Boritt similarly brings opulence to the Warbucks estate with elaborate drops as well as an artistic portrayal of New York City skylines.
Don’t let this Annie become a “Maybe” activity for the holiday season, and certainly don’t wait for “Tomorrow” as the limited two-week engagement has already begun.
Performances for “Annie” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W Randolph Street, run through November 30th, with evening performances beginning at 7 pm and matinee performances at 1 pm. Tickets range from $25-$105, with discounts for groups of 10. Additional information and tickets are available online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com and by phone at (800) 775-2000.