by Zoe Baker-Peng
During our “hurrication,” we got used to watching the trees blow side-to-side, gazing at the raindrops’ patterns on our windows, and staring up at the heavy, grey skies. We all need a bit of warming sun and if we’re not going to get it from the heavens, we might as well go in search for it.
There’s no better place to find the optimism for sun than the Palace Theatre, where Annie is making its Broadway comeback. After the original production opened in 1977, several tours and international productions, and a revival in 1997, the cheerful red-haired orphan has made her way back to the Broadway stage, still charming seasoned Annie audiences and passing on her youthful enthusiasm to the next generation. As a young girl, I loved sitting in my room and playing the cassette tape that my mum had made me of the Annie songs. I would passionately sing along to “It’s a Hard Knock Life” as if I was the orphan scrubbing the floors and my parents were treated to performances of “Tomorrow” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” on numerous occasions. Keen to encourage my enthusiasm, my mum bought tickets to the West End production of Annie and bought me the 1982 film adaptation. Returning to a theatre, as a teenager, to watch one of my favorite childhood movies as a Broadway show was exciting. As I waited for the show to start, I leafed through the program, remembering songs I had forgotten and anticipating the different sets.
The show did not disappoint. Lilla Crawford was enchanting in the title role and sang with all the gusto and spunk that Annie should have. Her fellow orphans were lively and believable; each of them molded themselves to their characters’ role with astounding skill and enthusiasm. “It’s A Hard Knock Life” was thoroughly impressive with fantastic choreography and exuberant singing. Kate Finnigan excelled as Miss Hannigan, capturing the perfect balance between scarily intimidating and pathetically humorous. Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks was a commanding presence on the stage and was surprisingly funny. Brynn O’Malley (Grace Farrell), Clarke Thorell (Rooster Hannigan), and Merwin Foard (F.D.R.) were all dynamic, playing their roles with perceptive wit and realism. The supporting cast also did a wonderful job in making this show an animated and enjoyable performance.
What struck me the most was the age range of the audience. Toddlers and young children made up a large majority of the audience, closely followed in numbers by their adult parents. There were also many teenagers and eager grandparents amongst the seats, proving that Annie is indeed a show for all ages.
As a teenage girl, I enjoyed Annie both from the nostalgic and the excitedly involved perspectives. I didn’t feel too old to sympathize with the orphans or to be enchanted by Sandy the dog. This time around, I actually understood what an economic depression is, and I loved watching members of the audience, both young and old, sing along to the classic songs – which included, of course, “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.”
Annie is still in previews at the Palace Theatre. Opening night is November 8th, 2012.
Zoe Baker-Peng is a first-year at Barnard and a staff-writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.
Image courtesy of About.