America’s favorite Depression Era cartoon strip character, Little Orphan Annie gloriously returns to the Theatre in the Park stage for a two weekend run as the Broadway musical continues to delight theater goers.
In this, the 50th Anniversary season for Theatre in the Park, “Annie” welcomes family entertainment to the venue with a story the brings smiles to young and old. The story takes place in the darkest part of The Great Depression, December of 1933. FDR claimed victory over Herbert Hoover, but his plans to pull the country out of The Depression have not yet developed. An optimistic orphan, seeking her lost parents helps spur the New Deal and set America on a path to recovery. C’mon folks…it’s good theatre.
Eight orphans (including the notorious Annie) live with Miss Agnes Hannigan in a New York City orphanage where comfort, kind words, good food, and proper clothing are in short supply, if available at all, as Christmas approaches. Annie escapes temporarily and befriends a stray dog, Sandy, before being returned to the orphanage. Upon her return she encounters Grace, a secretary for the richest man in the US, Oliver Warbucks. Grace wants to invite an orphan to spend the two weeks prior to Christmas with Mr. Warbucks at his Fifth Avenue mansion.
The result is a heartwarming bond that continues in the comic strips throughout the run of Little Orphan Annie and then onto the Broadway stage with the back story described above. Add some beautiful music, some dance, and some other shady characters and the Broadway success continues to bring joy to audiences.
The main characters bring strong acting and vocal talents to the stage for this community theatre production. Holly Lichtenauer as Annie possesses a great singing voice and shows potential as a developing actress. She holds the stage among seasoned actors in the adult roles. Ron Meyer gives a strong performance as the straight, stodgy Warbucks whose heart is stolen by his young charge. Kay Noonan gives a funny approach to the nasty, gin-swilling Agnes Hannigan. Noonan gives her a touch of sex-appeal with body language and vocal
inflections. She’s a scene stealer of the best caliber. As Grace Farrell, Celia Thompson plays it stern yet tender with a dynamic voice. Her stiffness when facing Hannigan and the tenderness with Annie allow her to show different dimensions of her character.
As the other villain, Weston Thomas makes Rooster very animated and funny. He gives the audience something to watch in each of his scenes. He’s at his best in “Easy Street” and sadly, the show does not break into a featured dance number for him. It would fit, and Thomas moves like a dancer on the verge of breaking into a routine.
“Annie” tells a wonderful story with its script and score, but without the behind the scenes magic, the show would land flat. The musical numbers move well. Hats off to the choreography and dance members. The lighting is done well, especially when two sets on opposite sides of the stage need brought into and out of attention. Scene changes are awkward at times, but that is the result of the script and the play itself. “Annie” needs a mansion, a street scene, a Hooverville, Miss Hannigan’s office, the orphan’s bedroom, a radio station, and more. That’s quite a challenge for any set designer to master and make work. Great job overcoming all those changes to make the show flow. Costumes, makeup, hair, lighting, sound and all the technical aspects work in making “Annie” a success. The production team has something to be proud.
The orchestra also adds a nice texture to the show. The score and lyrics are good. But, it takes the talent of the pit orchestra to add the richness to the sound track. Great job by those in the pit who make the music stand out.
The Production Team for Theatre in the Park’s production of “Annie” is: Director–Tim Bair, Assistant Director–Trevor Fretts, Assistant Director/Child Coordinator–Julie Fox, Choreographer–Kacy Christensen, Musical Director/Conductor/Accompanist–Marsha Canaday, Costume Designer–Fran Kapono-Kuzila, Props Designer–Bill Christie, Hair and Make-up Designer–John Hollan, Scenic Designer–Tim Bair, Lighting Designer–Sai Rupp, Lead Lighting Designer–Eric Robertson, Sound Designer–John Prokop, Lead Sound Designer–Casey Faircloth, Stage Manager–Catherine Lewis, Asst. Stage Manager–Stephen Holbert, Asst. Stage Manager–Sophia Hillman,
The cast list for Theatre in the Park’s “Annie” is: Annie–Holly Lichtenauer, Warbucks–Ron Meyer, Miss Hannigan–Kay Noonan, Grace–Celia Thompson, Rooster–Weston Thomas, Lily–Whitney Armstrong, Roosevelt–Chris Pierce, Molly–Tenley Thompson, Kate–Harper Wright, Tessie–Jennie Quarrato, Pepper–Makayla Manning, July–Jordan Baker, Duffy–Madeline Hendricks, Orphans–Ashlyn Robertson, Orphans–Chloe Hochanadel, Bert Healy /Male Ensemble–Matthew Quinn, Drake /Male Ensemble–Alec Walberg, Bundles / Male Ensemble–Alex Grumminger, Lt. Ward / Male Ensemble–Jordan Lewis, Male Ensemble–Michhael Pierce, Male Ensemble–Paul McArdle, Boylan Sister / Female Ensemble–Joy Richardson, Boylan Sister / Mrs. Pugh / Ensemble–Lora Sorenson, Boylan Sister / Female Ensemble–Lindsay Day, Star to Be / Female Ensemble–Tori Loepp, Sophie / Female Ensemble–Rachel Phillips, Female Ensemble–Averey Shaw.
The “Annie” orchestra is: Marsha Canaday, music director/conductor; Tosh Watanabe, violin; Kieran Ojakangas, cello; Deanna Wagoner, keyboard; Kaytee Deitrich, reed; Ron Mundt, reed; Holly Hague, reed; Kaitlin McFadden, reed/clarinet; Shelby Miron, reed/flute/piccolo; Makenna Kerr, reed/clarinet; Margaret Hempleman, reed/flute; Trent Tinker, trumpet; Dan Graham, trumpet; Lee Finch, trombone; Steve Constance, trombone; Bill Wood, guitar/banjo; Wallace M. Buchanan, tuba; Blake Vignary, drums; Frank Annecchini, bass.
“Annie” was written by Thomas Meehan. Music and lyrics for the production were done by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. Theatre in the Park’s production opened for weekend runs on June7 and continues from June 12-15. The show is family friendly and fun for all ages.
And, finally, what would Little Orphan Annie be without her trusted associate, Sandy? Buck is a rescue, so befitting the character of Sandy. Buck came through a tornado, was rescued, and now performs in “Annie.” He represents a good reason to adopt an animal in need. They have lots of unconditional love to give.
Tags: “Annie” review, Theatre in the Park, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment