Thursday, October 9, 2014

Broward Center for the Performing Arts: Annie (reviews)

BAA_AnnieThe national tour of Annie opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on October 7, 2014.
The world's best-loved musical returns in time-honored form. Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin and choreographed by Liza Gennaro, this production of ANNIE will be a brand new incarnation of the iconic original. Featuring book and score by Tony Award®-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, ANNIE includes such unforgettable songs as "It's the Hard Knock Life," "Easy Street," "I Don't Need Anything But You," plus the eternal anthem of optimism, "Tomorrow."
Martin Charnin directed a cast that included Issie Swickel, Gilgamesh Tagget, Lynn Andrews, Ashely Edler, Garret Deagon, Lucy Werner, and Allan Ray Baker.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Why should you go to see Annie yet once again, besides delighting your children and the fact that this edition of a new-from-scratch national tour at the Broward Center is one of best Annie productions we’ve seen? Two reasons.
The first is that Martin Charnin, directing it literally for the 19th time since he helmed it in 1976, has banished a lot of the saccharine overkill and played the remaining cuteness and heart-tugging moments against a grimy, downtrodden Depression that resonates a good deal with our current world…not that this is a dark revisionist Annie..
The second reason to see this Annie is Annie. Savor the national bow of Davie resident Issie Swickle as she nails the title role with the polish and chops of someone a lot older than her nine years…
Now here’s a surprise: She can belt out a song with best of them and she has performer’s pizzazz without self-consciously mugging for applause. But Swickle’s not some blinding strobe light pulling focus from everyone else like such forces of nature as the original Annie, Andrea McArdle. She’s not a dynamo (although she reportedly has that quality), she’s not a mini-Merman (although she reportedly has that ability). She actually acts the part, not performs it – which is probably why Charnin chose her over about 500 other applicants. It’s especially evident in the non-belt numbers such as the wistful opening number “Maybe.”
…she has first-rate support from a no excuses cast top-to-bottom, starting with Lynn Andrews as greedhead Miss Hannigan and Gilgamesh Taggett as Warbucks . Taggett, who has played the role twice before, persuasively creates the gruff, emotionally shut off billionaire who learns what he has been missing… Try to resist when Warbucks has committed his heart and yet must deny his own happiness to ensure Annie’s when she says all she wants is to find her parents.
Andrews, bless her, does not spend a moment trying to win the audience’s favor by winkingly playing the role as a lovable comedienne like when Carol Burnett did it in John Huston’s misbegotten film version. Her Miss Hannigan is still a blowsy alcoholic abusive monster, but the villainess’ hapless and luckless pursuit of riches somehow seems almost pitiful in its doomed ineptness. Almost.
Credit to Ashley Elder as secretary Grace who holds her own in a part that usually fades into the background. Garrett Deagon and Lucy Werner are delightfully venal and rubber-legged as Rooster and Lily St. Regis (named after the hotel she brags, which prompts to Hannigan to ask, which floor).
A shout out to the chipper FDR played by Allan Baker who has appeared at Actors Playhouse in both Mid-Life Crisis (Mid Life 2 – The Crisis Continues) shows and Becky’s New Car.
And, of course, the moppets who are simultaneously appealing and might pick your pocket if you gave them a chance: Adia Dant, Isabel Wallach, Lillybea Ireland, Sydney Shuck, the impossibly cute Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly, and Miamian Angelina Carballo.
But the show is the real star: Meehan’s perfectly constructed book, Charnin’s witty lyrics and Charles Strouse’s infectious score. And this crew under Charnin’s direction lands number after number with a polish and perfection that makes you shake your head. There is not a single weak moment in the production.
Jack Gardner reviewed for Edge Miami:
This current incarnation of Annie very much resembles the origins, directed by original lyricist Charnin and is faithful to its initial concept in practically every way. The choreography by Liza Gennaro was simple and effective.
The cast of this current tour features several very strong singers. Of particular note is Lynn Andrews in the role of Miss Hannigan… Andrews' performance holds up well against the competition. She shakes her ample form around the stage with evil abandon and belts out the high notes with the best of them. She's so evil that you can't help but like her.
In the role of Daddy Warbucks Gilgamesh Taggett was one of the highlights of the evening. Taggett is a fine singer and has the perfect look for this role. He's settled into this character beautifully and gave us some of the best singing of the evening.
In the title role, native Floridian Issie Swickle does a great job. While her voice is not as rich as that of Andrea McArdle, the role's creator, it is a fine voice that rings out loud, clear and consistently on pitch. She has the look and the character down pat and she charms the audience from the moment she steps onto the stage.
In the role of Rooster Hannigan, the villainous brother of Miss Hannigan, Garrett Deagon gave a memorable performance. His tall lanky frame made his dancing one of the highlights of the evening. As Lily St. Regis, Rooster's cohort Lucy Werner was cute playing the dumb blonde.
In the role of Grace Farrell, the assistant to Warbucks, Ashley Edler was a blonde delight with a lilting soprano voice. As Molly, the youngest of the orphans, Lily Mae Stewart with her mop of curly hair and spunky personality drew the audience's attention each time she came on stage.
Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
Annie - now in a two-week run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts - is one of those shows that have worked their way into our consciousness… This road tour is no different in that respect, hitting all the checkpoints on the list. The kids are calculatingly cute. The villainous Miss Hannigan is a boozy hot mess. The score is still glorious and tuneful. And for us South Floridians, there is the added thrill of watching one of our own, Davie’s Issie Swickle, play Annie with a relaxed confidence.
And basically, that’s all we get from the corpse of a once decent newspaper.  Oh, there is a video with the worst narration we’ve ever heard.
The national tour of Annie plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through October 19, 2014.

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