Superior Cast “makes” this production of Annie
Now on stage at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse: November 13 to December 23, 2012
I have seen many productions of Annie – the musical based on the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” about the red-head and her dog during the depression years. I’ve seen it at least twice at Huron Country Playhouse and at other professional and community theatres. I’ve seen it on a high school stage, and I even saw my own kid in it at summer camp. But this production, now on stage at Huron Country Playhouse is the best ever. (Sorry, Kid).
It’s a charming story: life in the orphanage is tough, with the evil, drunken Miss Hannigan abusing the little girls she hates. Annie is selected by Grace, Mr. Warbucks’ assistant, to come and spend Christmas at the Warbucks mansion – presumably, it’s a PR gesture to make Warbucks look good. But Annie longs to find her real parents – they had promised in a note to come back for her when they left her at the orphanage. When Warbucks offers a reward, and President Roosevelt helps out, all kinds of imposters come forward. Despite some heartache along the way, Christmas is not ruined and a happy ending ensues.
It is the assembly of a superior cast that makes this production the best Annie ever. All the way from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, with a mass of red curly hair, Dominique Le Blanc is a perfect Annie. She has just the right mix of perky and pathos to charm any audience.
Victor Young is an ideal Daddy Warbucks. He takes us on his journey from a brusque industrialist to a father-figure who learns about love from a child. Jayne Lewis is a delightful Grace who learns early on that Annie will have a positive effect on the household. And if the show had just lasted another minute, we know Grace would have been in Warbucks arms and he would be proposing marriage. A couple in real-life, Young and Lewis obviously have great chemistry on stage. They will be remembered in their wonderful roles as J.B. Biggley and Miss Jones in last year’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
A staple of Canadian musicals, Charlotte Moore, is hilarious as Miss Hannigan. She teams up with Huron Country Playhouse favourite Keith Savage as Rooster Hannigan and Melissa Thomas-Hicks as Lily St. Regis. The three bring the house down with “Easy Street” and their uproarious dance number.
The ensemble is excellent – handling multiple roles and many costume changes perfectly. They are the street people of Hooverville, pretentious servants in the Warbucks mansion, busy New Yorkers, on-air talent at the radio station, and the Whitehouse staff. Patric Masurkevitch is an impressive Roosevelt.
And then there are the orphans: Three teams of 14 girls rotate on stage, with each team being assigned different shows. Team one was on hand for opening night – singing talent was excellent, acting ability was good, and the choreography was great. Kudos to the creative team for bringing out the best in these children.
This show is well-worth the ticket price and the trip to Grand Bend. Theatre veterans Alex Mustakas as director, Robert Foster as musical director, and Gino Berti as choreographer have created the perfect Annie with this exceptional cast. Bring the kids, it’s a great multi-generational show, fun for all ages. You will be impressed by the talent.
You gotta love the orphan stories. After this production of Annie, it’s right up there on the list of my all-time favourite orphan musicals: right after Anne of Green Gables, and tied with Oliver!
Annie continues with eight shows a week until September 1 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Directed by Alex Mustakas
Choreographed by Gino Berti
Musical direction by Robert Foster
Performed by Dominique Le Blanc, Victor A. Young, Charlotte Moore, Jayne Lewis, Keith Savage, Melissa Thomson-Hicks et al
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
August 15 to September 1, 2012
Reviewed by Mary Alderson