MAGNA — The drive through historic downtown Magna takes one back to time of simplicity. Apple pie on the windowsill, corner markets; where everyone knows their neighbors. The Empress Theatre has that very feeling: scrappy and full of heart. Therefore, choosing “Annie” as their 5th play in the 2010 season was very fitting. Tonight I reviewed Cast A of the two-cast show. (The adults are singly cast, but the children are double cast.)
For those who have never been to The Empress, I would encourage them to take some time to learn the history of the theatre, as well as the care that this town has put into creating their own little spot of culture out in their end of the valley. The building is cared for by neighbors and the theatre is run by volunteers. Everyone helps to keep it going. This is the type of theatre that makes me want to give up writing and return to the stage.
The young Miss Reeve Sikalis (Annie), while strong vocally, was difficult to connect with. She had NO fourth wall. (For the layman: the fourth wall is the invisible wall separating the audience from the actors. It is critical in maintaining that audience’s belief that the things happening onstage are separate from their own world.) She also spent a great deal of time fidgeting with her wig, and not subtly. She moved it around several times, while seemingly distracted. She was only “present” when she was directly involved in the action, and even then, she seemed to be running on automatic. She is full of potential, and I encourage her to find new ways of keeping focused, and fresh, as she continues to develop her love of the theatre.
Opposite of Annie was Fallon Memmott as Daddy Warbucks. He entered and was immediately lovable, right off the bat. He commanded the stage. The eye follows him, and the audience connects with him. My only critique is that his delivery of the long awaited line, “I want to adopt you,” was delivered with as much emotion as one puts into writing a grocery list. Other actors of note were Faith Peterson as Grace and Jacob Clark playing various roles. Miss Peterson (Grace) has an effortless quality to her voice, while Clark adds a touch of comic relief and has a unique sense of physical comedy. I enjoyed every minute both these actors were onstage.
Last, but absolutely not least, was Heidi Smith as Miss Hannigan. While strong, and lovely to watch, I had a difficult time believing she had a mean bone in her body. Her relationships with the adults were impeccably timed and well received. The children, however, seemed to have no real fear of Miss Hannigan and the children actually seemed more “in charge” of the orphanage than she was. Coupled with Jeremy Heaps as Rooster and Keri Wright as Lily, the trio were easily the strongest in the show. Their number “Easy Street” was well choreographed, well rehearsed, and very entertaining. Mr. Heaps (Rooster) may want to slow down when speaking. His singing and dancing were spot on, but when he had dialogue, he seemed to race through it.
On a technical note: The brilliant costume team (all volunteers) had a vision. The shady characters in bright, loud costumes, and the upper crust in sophisticated and tailored looks. It was all visually creative and well done.
Annie is a classic story, full of familiar musical numbers, and a whole lot of fun. As a whole, the production is guaranteed to be a fun night out, for families of all ages. It is directed by Sherry Smith, and produced by the Oquirrh Hills Performing Arts Alliance.