Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Theatre Review: Annie, at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

While some stories are timeless, others are cyclical, and can drift into and out of fashion.

Annie, the musical about the 1930's Depression era 11-year old orphan girl who wins the heart of a business tycoon, is back in fashion, and no wonder. The current global recession probably represents the closest thing to the Depression that the world will witness for a few generations, and with factories closing and the ranks of the unemployed swelling rapidly, Annie's message of maintaining hope that tomorrow will be better resonates strongly.

Annie was at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, and the Sunday matinee was sold out. A good half of the audience was made up of kids, and of those, a good 90 percent were girls. It was therefore a remarkably well behaved audience that enjoyed Broadway Across Canada's NETworks presentation, a solid and surprisingly fleeting three hours in length including the intermission.

This touring production is directed by Martin Chernin, the man who originally directed Annie on Broadway, and also the man behind the lyrics, and the overall influence of his experienced hand comes through.

Madison Kerth as Annie connected quickly with the audience, and although not the best child singer ever, she held the show together and appeared in all but a handful of scenes. The heavy duty singing duties were left for Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan, David Barton as Oliver Warbucks and Analisa Leaming as Warbucks' assistant Grace Farrell, and all three threw themselves into their roles with the right amount of gusto. The rest of the cast all filled their roles admirably, and tiny seven year old Mackenzie Aladjem as the littlest orphan Molly stole every heart in the house.

With this being a touring production, the overall talent on display was never going to bring the house down, and it didn't. The musical highlights did include, however, the show stopper "Tomorrow" in its many variations, with the song's delivery at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Oval Office a particular success. "It's The Hard Knock Life", "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" and "Easy Street" are the other signature songs from Annie, and they were all delivered with the required mix of passion and humour.

The set design (Ming Cho Lee) and the costume design (Theoni Aldredge) were both clever, vibrant and quite elaborate for a touring show.

And finally, special mention to Mikey, the clever dog who has a few scenes as Sandy, the stray who befriends Annie early in her journey from Orphan to Warbucks' mansion. We can all hope that Sandy's good fortune of going from being abandoned in the streets to a cozy home will rub-off on society as whole sooner than later.

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