Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The current show at Little Theatre of Fall River is “Annie”, the 1977 hit musical. Based on Harold Gray’s comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”, it won seven Tony Awards and ran for 2,377 performances. This high energy show is a hit again with this audience. This heart warming musical is the rags-to-riches story of plucky young Annie’s journey from a hard knock orphanage to the luxurious home of billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks. It has insightful direction by Paula Arruda, topnotch musical direction by Eli Bigelow and wonderful choreography by Jennifer Bellanti, Nina Calvo, Jill Goulet, Loralee Levesque and Raylin Medina. This show is what is needed in today’s society, a brighter future and the optimism of the title character.
Paula blocks the show wonderfully, creating picture postcard moments. Eli taught the cast their musical numbers while Dan Snizek conducts a terrific ten piece orchestra. The outstanding dance numbers are the servants dances, “Easy Street”, the kids “Smile” kick line and “Hard Knock Life.” 11 year old Jane Kristainsen tackles the iconic role of Annie and comes up a winner. Her strong voice and topnotch acting ability is witnessed all night long. Her belting voice is heard in “Maybe”, “Tomorrow”, “NYC”, the two servant songs and in the duet “I Don’t Need Anything.” She handles the comic moments wonderfully and makes you choke up on the poignant ones where she tugs on your heartstrings. Pamela Morgan is fabulous as the heavy drinking, harridan, Miss Hannigan who mistreats the orphans while swilling down her “medicine.” She stops the show with her “Little Girls” number. Pamela transforms herself into this frumpy, comic woman after playing a very dramatic role in “August Osage County” for Little Theatre. This proves that she is a versatile actress who can play any kind of a role given her.
David Mello plays Daddy Warbucks wonderfully. David gives the role some topnotch comic touches but it is his dramatic turn when he realizes that he must adopt Annie that is very poignant and moving. His transition from hard boiled executive to caring adoptive parent is handled splendidly. His strong voice sells his numbers including “NYC” when he and Grace show Annie the sights of the Big Apple, the touching, poignant ballad “Something Is Missing” when he realizes Annie is a wonderful addition to his life and the joyous duet with Jane called “I Don’t Need Anything” with their terrific steps to it. Kennedy Ryan, a pretty blonde plays Grace and shows how much she cares for Annie as this tender hearted, compassionate woman. Her soprano voice is heard in “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”, “NYC”, “You Won’t Be an Orphan for Long”, “Annie” and “We Need a New Deal for Christmas” with David and Jane.
Playing the villains of the show are Ryan Durkay as Rooster and Sarah DeMoranville as Lily St. Regis. His portrayal of this slimy, sleazy guy and hers as the not to bright bimbo are fantastic. They are also hilarious as the Mudges, the phony parents of Annie. Ryan and Sarah display their voices and dancing skills in the show stopping “Easy Street” with Pam. Playing the Star to Be in “NYC” is Tyler Lynn Tavares who has a powerhouse voice.
The singing and dancing orphans in the show are terrific, too. They display their skills in “Hard Knock Life”, “Never Fully Dressed”, “New Deal for Christmas” and “Tomorrow” finale. These talented girls are 6 year old Aja Crockett as the youngest, Molly, (who steals many a scene with her fabulous voice and comic timing of her one liners) Claire Cote as Tessie, Lila Grace Stilley as July, Isabella Manchester as Duffy, Mia Lane Stilley as Pepper and Julia Santos as Kate. A couple of other standout performers are Jeff Belanger as FDR and Erich Dethlefsen as Harold Ickes who shines as he is transformed from a grouch into a nicer person by Annie in the “Tomorrow” number in Act 2. My favorite song in the show is “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover” done by the chorus. This show brings back memories for me, having directed it back in 1995. So for a musical that will lift your spirits in these trying times, be sure to catch “Annie” on it 40th Anniversary at Little Theatre of Fall River.
ANNIE (12 to 15 October)
Little Theatre of Fall River, Bristol Community College, 777 Elsbree Street, Fall River, MA
1(508)675-1852 or www.littletheatre.net