OREM — As a red head, Annie has always had a special place in my heart. It’s every little girl’s dream to sing “Tomorrow,” right? It was certainly mine. The SCERA gave a few little girls that opportunity with their current production of Annie: the Musical.
Annie tells the story of a golden-hearted orphan girl living in New York City during the Great Depression who wants nothing more than to find her parents. Amidst trying to keep her fellow orphan girls in line, avoiding the wrath of the cruel orphanage mistress Ms. Hannigan, and getting enough to eat, Annie stumbles her way into a Christmas vacation at a local billionaire’s home and finally finds the true joy of having a family.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the stage version of Annie, but the SCERA produced quite an enjoyable night of music and dance. The prologue, particularly, had me on the edge of my seat and rooting for Annie from the moment the curtain opened. I absolutely loved it! It was a wonderful bit of backstory that I had never before seen in a production of Annie, and absolutely helped the audience love little orphan Annie for the rest of the evening–and just in case that opening moment is a surprise, I’m not going to say any more about it.
The orphan girls were adorable and heartwarming, and their songs were probably my favorite moments of the show. Choreographers Sunny Watts and Shawn Mortensen came up with some hefty dance movies, but those orphan girls delivered like I couldn’t believe. They were a true ensemble, always together and supporting each other. And so young! I was so glad to see them having a blast onstage, continually making faces at Hannigan and dancing their little hearts out. Props especially to the four orphans who did the most dancing. (I wish I knew their names!) They must have been between the ages of 7 and 12, and I was in awe of them anytime the orphans had a dance number.
Standouts among the principles were definitely DeLayne Dayton as Ms. Hannigan and Randall Lund as FDR; they not only had the most charisma onstage, but were the strongest singers as well. Bronwyn Reed was a charming Annie–one the whole audience was rooting for–and definitely suited her character. I would have appreciated, however, stronger singers in the principle characters, most notably Oliver Warbucks (played by Eric Harper) and Annie, for the big numbers like “Tomorrow,” “NYC,” and “I Don’t Need Anything But You.” Perhaps it was opening weekend jitters, but overall the principle characters could have been so much bigger and more lovable. I just wanted everyone to have more fun with their characters!
The costumes, designed by Shelby Luke, and the set, designed by Nat Reed, fit perfectly in the world of the show and never distracted from the story. I really enjoyed Jennifer Reed‘s direction of such a huge cast; the ensemble especially was used effectively throughout the show and did a great job of supporting both the principle actors and the story. I especially enjoyed a few particular ensemble moments, such as Brian Cota’s lovable characterizations of the police officer, Drake, a Hooverville-ite, and a cabinet member (among others?); it was a blast to try to spot him in each scene and guess where he’d pop up next. Big shout out to ensemble member Heather Burgess and her energetic, beautiful solo in “NYC” and the talented radio show cast: the Boylan Sisters (Nyrie Hadnot, Laurel Jenson, Penny Colvin) and Burt Healy (Trace Lund). It’s always great to see an ensemble working to better the show instead of steal the spotlight.
The SCERA put on a great production, one I would definitely suggest to families for a great night at the theater. This is one to bring the kids to, parents–even the little ones! They’ll be singing “Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya!” all the way home.