'Little Girls' still rule 'Annie'
There's much about Annie that is hard to resist: kids, dogs, memorable music, political jokes, and amusing bad guys who get it in the end.
It's a musical soaked in optimism and one that has always been for adults as much as for kids. Sure, it helps to have a younger person with you who can celebrate unreservedly the daydream of being the poorest of the poor, only to be snatched off the streets by the wealthiest of the wealthy and be given everything you can dream of.
This re-imagining of Annie shows a kinder, gentler Daddy Warbucks, one who doesn't need an Annie to mellow him; she simply gives him little reminders of how he can do what he is already best at.
On opening night, Annie was played by Adia Dant, and Dant's usual role of Pepper was played by Angela Pallaini. Dant was as adorable as one expects from Annie. Thanks to her charisma, costuming and red hair, she always owned the stage when she was on it. All eyes were drawn to this little spitfire who could alternately charm and flame.
All of the orphans made a fantastic ensemble, their dances looking like a natural play and their songs simply the way they communicated with each other through the rough life they found themselves in.
Under Martin Charnin's direction, this was a musical of belting. All the songs were done at top volume with high energy and the sound system turned up high. Even some of the gentler songs were belted, showing off the prowess of the singers more than the variety of the music.
Gilgamesh Taggett as Oliver Warbucks has a voice made for belting. At all volumes, the timbre of his voice had a rich, sometimes mellow sound. It was full and designed for the kind of singing "Annie" demanded. Taggett's Warbuck was one who was likeable from the very start. He was busy, yes, but his riches never alienated him from the audience. He had a big heart, and it showed from the very start. In the song "NYC," he brings his whole staff with him on the walk through the city and pays for their tickets at the Roxie.
As villains, Lynn Andrews as Mrs. Hannigan, Garrett Deagon as Rooster Hannigan and Lucy Werner as Lily provided some of the most amusing physical comedy in the show. Andrews is a larger woman, and she made all of her body work, shaking each part to great effect. She was a perfect demonstration of why Broadway needs women of all sizes, and why having a real-sized body is nothing to be ashamed of.
Deagon and Werner brought in the contrast, and the three of them were wonderful in such trios as "Easy Street." Deagon had the rooster-like moves down pat, showing a bodily flexibility that was entertaining and near cartoon-like.
We must not forget Sandy. While the terrier didn't have too many scenes in the show, Sunny was beautifully trained and did everything expected of her. She even had a solo walk across the stage in which she stopped and was as expressive as if she'd had lines.
This production spared no expense with the set of the touring show. Large blocks of flats moved in and out and rotated to create different rooms in the orphanage, different parts of New York City, different parts of the Warbucks mansion and the White House. All these huge changes were made quickly and flowed smoothly.
One thing hasn't changed about "Annie" in the 37 years it has been a musical: It is still a heart-warming story that the whole family can enjoy.