Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The first show of The Community Players 97th season is “Annie” which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. This show is based on Harold Gray’s comic strip Little Orphan Annie, it won 7 Tony Awards and ran for 2,377 performances. With a combination of street smarts and optimism, Annie rises from next to nothing in 1930’s New York. She is determined to find her parents, who left her in the orphanage years ago in the clutches of the evil Miss Hannigan. With the help of the other orphans, Annie manages to foil Hannigan’s greedy plans and find a family with billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his secretary, Grace and Annie’s lovable dog, Sandy. It has insightful direction by Brian Mulvey, topnotch music direction by Ron Procopio who plays lead keyboards and conducts a 7 piece orchestra and some energetic dance numbers by Leslie Racine Vazquez. Their combined expertise wins the cast a resounding standing ovation at the close of the show.
Also impressive is the newsreel film during the overture which shows the Depression, its devastating impact and how it affected the whole country. It’s sobering message gives the musical a greater impact on how being positive wins the day in the end. Leading the cast is 11 year old Olivia Reilly Dufresne as Annie. Her strong voice soars in her numbers especially in the heartfelt, “Maybe”, the optimistic “Tomorrow”, the two servant numbers, and the duet “I Don’t Need Anything” with its dynamic ending. Brava on commanding the stage in this leading role. Eve Marie Webster as Miss Hannigan, is the biggest scene stealer in this show. She delivers her one liners perfectly, capturing the essence of this character brilliantly. Eve’s song “Little Girls” is hilarious and “Easy Street” trio song and dance stop the show in its track at its excellent execution.
Michael Thurber does a great job as Daddy Warbucks. He makes the comic and dramatic moments count all night long. Michael delivers strong vocals in “NYC” where he and Grace introduce the city to Annie, in the touching, poignant ballad “Something Was Missing” when he finally admits Annie is a wonderful addition to his life and in the joyous “I Don’t Need Anything” where he and Annie realize they need each other as parent and adoptive child. His transition from hard boiled businessman to loving caring parent is very well done. Lia Delsesto McAlpine shines as Grace with her beautiful soprano voice. Her voice soars off the charts in “I Think You’re Gonna Like It Here”, “NYC”, “You Won’t Be an Orphan” and “A New Deal for Christmas” as she returns to the theatre after an eight year hiatus to get married and have two sons.
Kevin Killavey and Laura Benjamin are hoots as Rooster and his dumb blonde gun moll, Lily St. Regis. Their accents as these characters are topnotch. Kevin captures the sleazy behavior wonderfully and Laura shines as this not too bright bimbo. Their dance with Eve is fabulous. The orphan girls steal many a scene with Sophie Appel as Pepper, the tough orphan always itching for a fight, Emma Sheldon as Molly, Samantha Boragine as Duffy, Jillian Reeve as July, Samantha Bardon as Tessie and Marley Shaw as Kate. They knock your socks off in “Hard Knock Life”, “Never Fully Dressed” and “New Deal” numbers. The chorus shines in the servant songs and in “Hooverville” number which is my personal favorite. So for an excellent high energy musical entertainment for the entire family, be sure to catch “Annie” at Community Players before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.
ANNIE (10 to 19 November)
Community Players, Jenks Auditorium, 350 Division St, Pawtucket
1(401)726-6860 or www.thecommunityplayers.net