18637_Annie_web_banners_1440x530_FINAL

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre opens its 2017-18 season with a well-crafted production of Annie. This perennial favorite took the Broadway theatre world by storm with its original production in 1977, running for six years. Based on Harold Gray’s depression era comic strip, the musical features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and a book by Thomas Meehan.

Under direction and choreography by Anne Nicole Beck, and musical direction by Brent Marty, Civic Theatre’s offering in a sometimes spectacular presentation. Though it sports an unevenness in some production areas, the show is dotted with numerous impressive performances and musical numbers.

Warbucks and Annie

Daniel Scharbrough (Daddy Warbucks) and Mary Kate Tanselle (Annie) star in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie”

On the high side, we are treated to Mary Kate Tanselle’s plucky and energetic Annie. Young Miss Tanselle shows an easy talent in her portrayal and lights up the stage with her fine vocal talents. Already a stage veteran in her eighth grade year, Miss Tanselle never wavers in a poised and professional grade performance.

Another shining light, much “like the top of the Chrysler Building”, is provided by Daniel Scharbrough, whose superior Daddy Warbucks reprisal comes off with a smooth confidence that reflects this fine actor’s many years of stage experience. Scharbrough is joined at this high level by relative newcomer Amanda Boldt, who turns in a successfully full portrayal of Warbucks’ faithful secretary, Grace Farrell.

Orphans2

“It’s a Hard Knock Life” for the orphans in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie”

 

Ms. Beck’s cadre of orphans gives solid energies in their various appearances in the show. Anna Wagner (Duffy), Nya Beck (Julie), Emily Chrzanowski (Kate), Abigail Judy (Molly), Emily Carlisle (Pepper), and Claire Kauffman (Tessie) are especially wonderful in “Hard Knock Life” with its robust choreography – one of Ms. Beck’s best efforts in that department.

Speaking of choreography, this is one of the areas which, in my opinion, was somewhat variable. Some numbers, such as “Hard Knock Life” and especially “NYC” and “Easy Street” were simply knockouts with remarkable performances of inventive step patterns. A few others, though somewhat creative, lacked that special something I have grown to expect from this choreographer. I know there are more than a few musical numbers to deal with here, but after the inventive creations I saw from Ms. Beck in Civic’s The Music Man,  I was struck by a downturn with what I saw here. Again, merely my observation and opinion…

Ensemble

One of the many ensemble numbers in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie”

Civic’s use of set designs based on the work of legendary designer Ming Cho Lee, is certainly among the high points in the show. Soaring skylines, lofty highway bridges, and well-appointed mansion interiors are provided, along with subtly slanted renditions of the orphanage and the oval office. Also high on my list is the wonderful presentation of the score by the Annie orchestra, under the baton of Matthew Konrad Tippel. It is first rate throughout. The costumes by Adrienne Conces also enrich the big-show quality of the production.

Other fine performances are sprinkled throughout: Paige Scott (Miss Hannigan), Jeremy Shivers-Brimm (Rooster Hannigan) and Virginia Vasquez (Lilly St. Regis) have some five star moments in their trio work as well as in their scene work together; Piper Murphy makes the most of her spotlight moment as “Star to Be”; and the rather vast ensemble has moments of spectacular rendition.

Frankly, any disappointment I may have had with this edition of Annie could be the product of several factors. Primarily, I have seen various productions of this piece and that in itself always lends an aspect of familiarity and undeniable comparison. Also, it occurs to me that the show I saw last evening was a second show in the run – which in theatre circles can often mean a letdown in the performers’ energies and efforts after a hellish full week of preparations for the opening night show. I know that feeling well.

Hannigans and Lilly

From left: Paige Scott (Miss Hannigan), Virginia Vasquez (Lilly St. Regis) and Jeremy Shivers-Brimm (Rooster Hannigan) provide the villainry in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie”

Bottomline: I believe if this is the very first production that you have seen of Annie, you will be blown away and delighted by what is offered here. In that light, it was fun to see all the little girls in attendance with Annie-bows in their hair, some in red dresses, all very excited to see this show. As for an old theatre goer like myself, I genuinely appreciate what has been assembled here, and was impressed by many of the choices and performances.

Annie continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through October 28th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

Advertisements