The current show at NSMT is the 1977 hit musical "Annie". Based on Harold Gray's comic strip "Little Orphan Annie", it won seven Tony Awards and ran for 2,377 performances. This high energy show is a hit again with this audience. This heart warming musical is the rags-to-riches story of plucky young Annie's journey from the hard-knock New York orphanage to the luxurious home of billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks. It has excellent and insightful direction by James Brennan, topnotch musical direction by Nick DeGregorio and marvelous choreography by Patti Colombo. This show is what we need in today's society, a brighter future and the optimism of the title character. This talented cast turn it into one of the must see shows this summer season.
James blocks this show wonderfully, creating picture postcard moments that the audience can savor. Nick has a Broadway caliber orchestra with an excellent harmony in "Hooverville" song and "You Won't be An Orphan for Long". Patti's dance numbers are terrific especially the kick line in "Smile" by the orphans, the servants dances, "Easy Street", "Hard Knock Life".Jacqueline Piro Donovan is fabulous as Miss Hannigan, the harridan who mistreats the orphans and Annie, constantly swilling down her "medicine".Her "Little Girls" number is a hoot as she twists off a doll's head and beats it on her desk. Jacqueline transforms herself into this frumpy woman, having played the glamorous Dolly Levi last month at NSMT. Her antics in "Easy Street" are priceless, too. She is a versatile performer and will be doing "Closer Than Ever" off-Broadway as her next venture.13 year old Lauren Weintraub plays Annie. She beat out 400 other girls for this role and you understand why she was chosen when you witness her performance. Lauren displays a fabulous voice and excellent acting ability as the title character. Her strong belting voice in "Maybe", "Tomorrow", "NYC", the two servant songs and in the duet "I Don't Need Anything". She handles her comic moments wonderfully and makes you choke up in her poignant ones. She definitely tugs on your heartstrings. Lauren has a bright future in show business. I first reviewed her as Molly in "Annie" for Reagle Players in 2008.
Raymond McLeod plays Daddy Warbucks. Raymond's comic touches are wonderful but his dramatic turn when he realizes he need to adopt Annie is poignant. His transition from hard-boiled businessman to adoptive parent are done with ease. His strong voice sells his numbers including "NYC" where he and Grace show Annie the sights of the Big Apple, and the touching, poignant ballad "Something is Missing" when he realizes Annie is a wonderful addition to his life and the joyous duet with Lauren called "I Don't Need Anything" with their terrific cakewalk dance steps in it. Jessica Tyler Wright is excellent as Grace. She is a glamorous blonde and does a splendid job as this tender hearted, compassionate woman. Her majestic soprano voice soars in "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here", "NYC", "You Won't Be An Orphan for Long", "Annie" and "New Deal for Christmas" with Raymond and Lauren. Jessica's next show is going to be "Rebecca, the Musical" on Broadway. Playing the Star to Be in "NYC" is Desiree Davar who shows off a strong singing voice. Playing the villains of the show are John Shiappa as Rooster and Shanna Palmer as Lily St. Regis. His portrayal of this sleazy and slimy guy and her portrayal of the not to bright bimbo are wonderful. They are also hilarious as the phony parents of Annie. They show off their strong voices and dancing skills in "Easy Street" with Jacqueline. John and Shanna shine in their roles. I last reviewed John in "Three Musketeers" in 2007 and Aida in 2004.
The singing and dancing orphans in the show are terrific, too. They show off their skills in "Hard Knock Life", "Fully Dressed", "New Deal for Christmas" and "Tomorrow " finale. These talented girls are Elena Carmichael as the youngest orphan,Molly, Maggie Budzyna as Tessie, Joanne Rosen as July, Jessica Lewis as Duffy, Heather Buccini as Pepper and Piper Burney as Kate. A couple of other stand out performers are Howard Pinhasik as FDR and Sean Watkins as Bert Healy. My favorite song in the show is the "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover" number lead by Cheryl McMahon and JP Qualters with their powerhouse voices. This show brings back memories for me, having directed it in 1995, So for a terrific show stopping rendition of this classic show, be sure to catch "Annie" at NSMT. Tell them Tony sent you.