Playing through June 24, 2010

MURRAY — Murray City Arts’s rendition of the little red head that could is an entertaining show for the family. With performances from a large cast ranging from the adorable little orphans to the staff at Warbuck’s manor, there are songs and scenes to entertain everyone.

Annie is the tale of the fiery red-headed orphan girl from 1930s New York. She was left behind by her parents, who claimed that someday they would come back to claim her. Holding to this knowledge, Annie (played by a boisterous Kathryn Smith) has always been the hope for the other girls in the orphanage (and a thorn to the tyrannical matron Miss Hannigan). Through a turn of events Annie is taken in by the billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Jason Wadsworth) for the holidays. An arrangement that was only to last two weeks soon becomes much more with the machinations of Miss Hannigan (Charlene Adams) and her sleazy brother, Rooster (Sanford Porter) taking everyone for a loop.

Murray has done a fine job with this musical theater favorite. Outdoor performances are always a difficult venue, with the show being subject to the elements. But even with a spattering of rain, the audience bundled up and the show went on. The space was well used and the set was monstrously impressive. The audible gasp from the audience at the scene change was a perfect reaction to this gigantic morphing stage.

A ‘hats-off’ to the director, Karyn Tucker, for taking the reins of a large youth cast in an already difficult venue. She has all the little orphan girls singing, shouting and fighting on cue.  The adorable little girls will have you smiling and the adult cast is as solid. I found myself enjoying every ensemble number just for the chance to watch all of the character performances by the chorus. I will admit that my favorite performances come from the over-the-top duo of the Hannigans. They were a riot to watch and delightfully easy to despise.

The ensemble’s sound was strong but it was obvious which number’s they liked the most. Songs like Warbuck’s “N.Y.C.” or the servants’, “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” didn’t hold a candle to the gusto with which the cast performed “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover.” But I didn’t mind the difference in dynamics; I found I enjoyed it more knowing that the cast was having fun up on that dripping wet stage. The only detraction from the performance was the dependence on body-mics. The difficulties of running such a large amount of mics for a cast this size resulted in a lot of crackling speakers and unheard lines.

Aside from rain and crackling speakers the show was an entertaining ride. So grab your blankets and bring the family for a fun night of local theater.

Annie plays at the Murray Park Amphitheater (495 E., 4300 S. in Murray) through June 17-19, 21-24, beginning at 8 PM.  Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for children or seniors’ there is a special $30 for family ticket (parent and dependent children) for the June 21 performance that may only be purchased at the gate.  Tickets for all performances may be purchased at the Murray Park office or at the gate. Call (801) 264-2614 for details.