Review: Annie

This is my first time seeing Annie, and liked both the show and director James Lapine’s production well enough, in spite of intensely disliking the show’s big hit, “Tomorrow”. The musical is probably better known today than its source material, Little Orphan Annie, a daily American comic strip created by Harold Gray in 1924.

The musical sets the young orphan girl’s adventures in the early 1930s – the height of the strip’s popularity – in Depression-era New York. Annie ends up with Republican billionaire (with a heart of gold) Oliver Warbucks (though the musicals creators are clearly fonder of the politics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who plays a pivotal role in the show). What little plot there is revolves around Warbucks’s attempts to find Annie’s parents, despite secretly wanting to adopt her himself.

Anthony Warlow is marvelous as Warbucks, playing his emotional story with more detail and seriousness than many musical comedy performers would think to do, to good effect. Warbucks could easily be a stereotypical rich humbug, but not in Warlow’s hands. Lilla Crawford is as feisty as the role of Annie requires, sings brassily (sometimes too much so), but she only intermittently gets Annie’s sincere ache and joy right.

Katie Finneran seems like she would be an ideal Miss Hannigan to me, and she mostly is. Something is slightly amiss with her performance, though – this actress, who is a master of sharp comic timing, plays some moments too broadly. Is this due to some conceptual twist from Lapine? His direction is mostly as brisk and fun as it needs to be, but there is a nagging sense that he is taking all of this more seriously than he ought, which might be what’s affecting Finneran. In any event, everybody seems to being rowing in the same largely lighthearted direction, which makes for a diverting evening of theatre.

For tickets, click here.

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