Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Annie"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The second show of Reagle Players' 40th season 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. It has excellent and insightful direction by the original Rooster, Bob Fitch who was 43 years old when the show first opened, top notch musical direction by Dan Rodriguez and Jeffrey Leonard who is also the conducter (Leading a fabulous orchestra) and fantastic choreography by Mary Jane Houdina. This multitalented and hard working cast turn it into one of the must see shows of this summer season. Completing the mix are stunning scenic design by Matt Rudman, excellent lighting design by David Wilson and gorgeous costumes by Costume World Theatrical.

Having starred in the original production, 73 year old Bob Fitch not only directs the show but plays the sinister, Rooster perfectly once again. Having seen the show back in 1977, he doesn't miss a beat in reprising his role of this slimy and sleazy guy. Knowing the show so well, he obtain the best out of his entire cast that the audience can savor. My favorite song is the Hooverville number. Jeff's music is beautiful and the orchestra does a wonderful job with all the numbers. The show is choreographed wonderfully by Mary Jane who adds special touches to the servant numbers and especially "Hard Knock Life", "Fully Dressed With a Smile" (especially the orphan's kick-line and dance which stops the show.) Miss Hannigan is played by Sally Struthers a two-time Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner for her performance in the ground breaking series, "All in the Family". She steals the show by giving a new turn to this role and slipping in the raspberry and referring to the girls as youse, Archie Bunkerisms. Sally is fabulous as 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, arms and legs. Her antics in "Easy Street" are priceless, too. Leading the cast is 11 year old Isabelle Miller as Annie. She shows off 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 looks like a young actress from RI called Rachel Miller-Sprake. Didn't know if it was a relation?)Oliver who plays Sandy in the show is best dog I have ever seen. He is well behaved and responded perfectly in all his scenes.

Veteran actor, Terry Runnels who has played the role of Daddy Warbucks 12 times commands the stage in this role. His comic touches are wonderful but his dramatic turn when he realizes he needs to adopt Annie will tug at your heartstrings. His transition from hard-boiled businessman to adoptive parent are done with ease and 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" where he realizes that Annie is a wonderful addition to his life and the joyous duet with Isabelle called "I Don't Need Anything". (Their cakewalk dance steps are fantastic in this number.) Warbuck's secretary, Grace is excellently played by the gorgeous blond haired, Sarah Pfisterer (who was fabulous as Julie Jordan in "Carousel", Anna in "The King & I" and Maria Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" all at Reagle) does an excellent job as this tender hearted, compassionate woman. Her fantastic soprano voice soars in "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here", "NYC", "You Won't Be An Orphan for Long" and "Annie".(Playing the Star to Be in "NYC" is Lauren Tempesta who shows off her strong belting voice) Playing Rooster's girlfriend is the multitalented Beverly Ward who is another gorgeous blond in real life, wears a brunette wig in this show. Her not to bright bimbo is topnotch as is her high pitched voice as the dumb Betty Boop. Her transition to Shirley Mudge the fake mother of Annie is also well done. Beverly's excellent voice is used in "Easy Street" where she, Bob and Sally show off their singing voices and dancing skills. Another scene stealing performance in Act 2 is by Scott Wahle who plays FDR and gets to show off his voice in "Tomorrow" and "New Deal for Christmas" with Terry and Sarah.

The singing and dancing orphans in this show are excellent, too. They show off their skills in "Hard Knock Life" and "Never Fully Dressed". These talented girls are Lauren Weintraub ( who plays the youngest orphan, Molly and she steals many scenes she is in) Charlotte Horan, (great job as Pepper, the sassy orphan, boy has she grown up since I first saw her as Brigitta in "Sound of Music" 3 years ago), Mei Lu Barnum, Madeline Snow, Jessica Bodner, Madison Kornbliet, Victoria Blanchard, Kimberly Lombardo, Brianna Maguire, Emma Nardi and Whitney Sanford. Rich Allegretto is Drake, Warbucks' butler while Christoper King gets to show off his tenor voice as Bert Healy doing "Never Fully Dressed" and in the chorus of "Tomorrow". (Excellent actress who has won many IRNE awards, Maryann Zschau appears in this show and played one of award winning roles as the evil Mrs. Mears in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" at Reagle. This fall she will be in "Follies".) Since this is huge cast, there isn't enough space to mention everyone. So for a splendid show stopping rendition of this well known show be sure to run to the box office at Reagle Players. Bravo!

"Annie" ( 10 -19 July)
617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM MA
1(781) 891-5600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide