HERRIMAN — Friday night I made my way out to the Rosecrest Pavilion at Butterfield Park in Herriman in the pouring rain. I was on my way to see the Herriman Arts Council’s production of Annie, directed by Stephen Kerr. Unsure of what the weather would contribute to my evening, I armed myself with an umbrella, a blanket, and an open attitude toward the unexpected possibilities of live theatre. I was not disappointed.
As often occurs with theatre outdoors, the natural elements contributed to the production in various surprising ways, not the least of which was occurred during the opening number “Maybe.” As Annie arose from her fitful sleep at the orphanage to sing about her unknown parents, the rain fell, and the wind blew her hair very effectively, as if coming through the windows of a drafty old building in New York in the 1930’s. What could have been a hindrance to the production helped launch it into its mood and place, and when the wind and rain blew over, the actors continued to take the audience on a fun, defiant, jaunt through the Great Depression.
The stars of Annie really are the orphans. The energy of the girls on stage, captured and utilized by Kerr and Julie Balazs, who choreographed lively group numbers, brought to the show its inherent element of optimism. Two young actresses alternate in the title role: Olivia Smith-Driggs and Bailee Johnson. Johnson performed when I attended, and I was impressed with her presence and awareness on stage, her ability to inhabit her character in song, and the way she effectively wielded humor and pathos. Her performance was complimented by that of the adult actors on stage. Layne Wilden as Daddy Warbucks, Jocelyn Hansen as Grace Farrell, and Cassie Jackman as Miss Hannigan grounded the show, keeping the pace brisk and the comedy well-timed. Credit for this also falls to Kerr, who brought incredible attention to detail in this community theatre production. While the cast is very large, it didn’t quite seem so, as everyone had a place, a task, and a character on the roomy stage (kudos to the hard work of the ensemble). The performances would have been enough to carry the show, but the fine set design by Stephen Kerr and Sean Catherall, and the costume coordination by Carli Christopherson, Meli Black, and Deb Taylor positively enhanced the production.
Given the excellence of so many aspects of this musical, it’s easy to overlook its minor flaws. The live orchestra, excellently conducted by Michelle Willis, occasionally drowned out the actors’ voices (though this could be a problem with the acoustics under the pavilion). In addition, the latter half of the show seemed a little rushed and less energized than the beginning, and the scene changes took a little longer than they I wished. But, as noted, these criticisms are trifling.
Annie in Herriman is the type of show I would recommend to those who have not had much experience with live theatre. It’s in a relaxed venue (go ahead and bring the whole family) with a dynamic cast and quality production elements. I think it would be hard for anyone not to have a good time. And if you’re an experienced theatre spectator, all the more reason to come to see this reenergized musical. Another added bonus to this particular production is the addition of what is called “The Annie Experience.” On select performances, kids get a chance to have their picture taken with Annie and to take home a replica of the locket used in the show. I think this is a nice way to get kids personally connected to theatre and a nice fulfillment of the community theatre mission.