Who could possibly resist a story that involves New York City, a cute dog, and a little red-headed orphan with big dreams? That magical formula is what has made “Annie” so beloved since it first hit the stage in 1977. Even though the story, set in 1933, is a little old-fashioned, it still resonates with audiences, both young and old- a fact that’s proven by the upcoming film adaptation, the story’s third.
Unlike the soon-to-be-released film, the DPAC version, directed by Martin Charnin sticks very close to the original script. In fact, aside from an ad lib here or there, the story remains untouched. Feisty Annie (Issie Swickle) holds on to the hope that her parents will one day come back for her as promised, all while suffering under the hands of evil orphanage mistress Miss Hannigan (Lynn Andrews). Things change for Annie though when she’s selected to spend the Christmas holidays with rich-but-unfulfilled Oliver Warbucks (Gilgamesh Taggett), and as might be expected, they change for him too. Filled with comic moments and unforgettable musical numbers, it’s no wonder that this sweet story has been a hit for such a long time.
Before the show even officially opened, the pre-show soundtrack medley had audience members at Tuesday’s opening night performance excited, and once the curtains opened, “Annie” definitely didn’t disappoint. The early orphanage scenes, featuring a beautifully barren backdrop by Beowulf Boritt, effectively showcase Annie’s desolate surroundings, making the hope she shows within them all the more endearing. And, speaking of endearing, Swickle’s Annie is surrounded by the cutest, most talented cast of orphans imaginable. They nail Liza Gennaro’s stomping and superbly pleasing choreography during the famous “It’s the Hard Knock Life” number in the show’s early scenes. And, while all of the kids are skilled, young Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly and Lillybea Ireland as worrywart Tessie are particularly adorable.
Even the cutest of kids, however, can’t carry a show without a villain and Andrews’ drunken Miss Hannigan is the perfect one. Ugly faces and screechy voices make her an effectively scary (and equally funny) witch. Fortunately, before she has the chance to get too scary, Taggett’s Warbucks charms viewers both young and old. He nails his character’s emotional transformation, easily and believably moving from stern and stoic to elated and enamored once Annie enters his life. His is one of the strongest and most enjoyable performances in the entire show, rivaled only by Swickle’s strong-voiced, cheeky Annie and, of course, Sunny’s turn as Sandy, the stray (and adorable!) dog Annie befriends.
Perfectly cast, acted, and directed DPAC’s “Annie” is an absolute treat for every viewer, regardless of age or experience with the show. It’s pure magic, and that’s quite appropriate given the holiday season.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents ANNIE at 8 p.m. Dec. 12, 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 13, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $40.90-$161.57 (including fees). Click here for “special offers.”
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1982741.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events/group_services.
SHOW: http://www.DPACnc.com/events/detail/annie and https://www.facebook.com/events/276240085877766/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://anniethemusical.com/gallery.php and https://www.facebook.com/AnnieTheMusical/videos.
TOUR: http://anniethemusical.com/, https://www.facebook.com/AnnieTheMusical, and https://twitter.com/annieontour.
TOUR CAST: http://anniethemusical.com/team.php.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://anniethemusical.com/team.php.
2014-15 SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.DPACnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2014-15.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.DPACnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10th, performance.
“Little Orphan Annie” (comic strip, 1924-2010): http://www.stuartliss.com/loahp/ (The Official “Little Orphan Annie” Home Page) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Orphan_Annie (Wikipedia).
Harold Gray (cartoonist, 1894–1968): http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=70186 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Gray (Wikipedia).
Annie (1977 Broadway and 1978 West End musical): http://anniethemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000005 (Music Theatre International), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=1613 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Charles Strouse (music): http://www.charlesstrouse.com/ (official website), http://anniethemusical.com/popup.php?id=744&type=1 (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=12463 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Strouse (Wikipedia).
Martin Charnin (lyrics and original Broadway and 2014 tour director): http://anniethemusical.com/popup.php?id=745&type=1 (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7570 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Charnin (Wikipedia).
Thomas Meehan (book): http://anniethemusical.com/popup.php?id=746&type=1 (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=8874 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Meehan_%28writer%29 (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.