Theatre Mirror Reviews-"Annie JR."

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entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"Annie JR."

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Footlights Rep's Junior division's current show is "Annie Jr." based on the 1977 Broadway hit "Annie" which won seven Tony Awards and ran for 2,377 performances. The original show was based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. This rags to riches story of the plucky Annie's journey from the hard knock orphanage to the luxurious home of billionaire, Oliver Warbucks.  It is led by a multitalented little girl, Isabella Manchester. Directors Neil Jeronimo and Tricia Rodrigues picked some of the 25 most talented children around for these roles, music director Kasey Jeronimo obtains topnotch vocals from them while choreographer Brian Pereira's dances are marvelous, too. Their combined expertise wins their astounding cast a thunderous standing ovation. This show is what today's society needs, a brighter future and the optimism of the title character.

Neil and Tricia block the show beautifully, obtaining topnotch performances from them while Kasey taught them the musical numbers. Brian's many clever dances shine in "Hard Knock Life", "Smile", the servant number and "Easy Street" to name a few. Isabella who is only 11 years old plays the title role perfectly. She sings her numbers excellently including "Maybe", "Tomorrow" and the duet "I Don't Need Anything" as well as in the songs with the kids and adults, too. Isabella has many comic moments with Miss Hannigan and the others that win her many laughs but it is in the dramatic scenes that she really excels, leaving you in tears. These are the locket scene with Daddy Warbucks and Annie's leaving the mansion scene. Isabella displays the skills of an actress beyond her years. Brava on a job very well done.

Morgan Salpietro as Miss Hannigan is a hoot. She steals many a scene with her wild and crazy antics as the mean spirited and heavy drinking woman. Her gestures and facial expressions are priceless as she mistreats the orphans. Her solo "Little Girls" is hilarious, too especially when she throws the bear over the door flat. Morgan displays her dance moves in "Easy Street" with Noah Santos as Rooster and Jillian Levesque as Lily. He is comical as the villainous kidnapper as Morgan and Jillian tower over him. Noah wins many laughs when he exclaims "Here is our little Annie" and Isabella is taller then him. Jillian's portrayal as the dumb blonde with a high pitched voice is very funny. They are also comical as Annie's phony parents, the Mudge's.

Derek Alexander plays Daddy Warbucks. His comic touches are wonderful but it is the poignant moment when he realizes he needs to adopt Annie that will choke you up. His transition from hard boiled businessman to adoptive parent are marvelous to behold. His voice is heard in "NYC" when he and Grace show Annie the sights of New York, the touching poignant ballad "She Won't Be An Orphan For Long" when he realizes Annie might leave him and in the exuberant "I Don't Need Anything" with marvelous cake walk steps with Isabella.Mary St. Laurent does a wonderful job as Grace Farrell, tender hearted and compassionate woman who rescues Annie from her plight. Her beautiful soprano voice is heard in "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here", "NYC", and "Tomorrow" with Derek and Isabella. Eliana Massa's strong voice is heard as the Star to be in "NYC". Sandy, the dog is well played by Demetrius Pavao Maldonado who is as cute as a button. He also sings "Tomorrow" with Isabella.

The multitalented singing and dancing orphans are terrific, too. They display their skills in "Hard Knock Life", "Never Fully Dressed"  and "Tomorrow" finale. These talented girls are Erika Baxter as the youngest orphan, Molly,Izzy Salpietro as Tessie, Avery Kuznar as July, Alessandra Maldonado as Duffy,Savanah DaSilva as Pepper, Anna Michaud as Tabby and Abrie Massa as Kate. Other stand out performers include Stephanie Baxter, Emily Marshall and Eliza Sirpenski as the Boylan Sisters. They also dance up a storm with Jillian throughout the show. This show brings back memories for me, having directed it in 1995. So for a fantastic fun filled rendition of this upbeat show, be sure to catch "Annie Jr." by Footlights Rep Junior division.

"Annie JR." (8 - 11 January)
@ 65 Milford Road, SWANSEA MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide