Little Orphan Annie’s story sets high standards for ‘Annie’

By Bob Evans

Heap lots of credit on Leawood Stage Company for their current free production of “Annie” that continues for one more weekend at the amphitheater at Ironwood, with high praise for director/choreographer Chris McCoy, and leads, Josephine Pellow, Graham Fairleigh, and Bridget MacNevin-Pfeiffer.

The story revolves around 11 year old Annie and the head mistress of the New York orphanage, Agnes Hannigan. Miss Hannigan dislikes children, but loves her government job that furnishes a place to live, her food, utilities, and a steady paycheck in the heart of The Great Depression. Annie’s failed escape allows the to visit a local Hooverville and befriend a stray dog, Sandy before returning to the orphanage. Annie’s second escape proves more advantageous as she is “adopted” for two weeks to spend time with Oliver Warbucks over the Christmas holiday.

Credit Chris McCoy for bringing the charming story to life with strong casting, fantastic voices, and fun choreography. Graham Fairleigh excels as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. His vocals are some of the best in the metro area and the way he struts on the stage as Warbucks makes his on-stage time the focus of everyone’s attention. And, he has no choice but give a strong stage presence because Josephine Pellow as Annie can steal any scene with her innocent charm. Both are phenomenal. And then there is the Hannigan family, Agnes and Rooster whose scheme to steal the reward money for Annie’s real parents. Both gave spirited performances. They were both so much fun, you want to see more of them. Their song, “Easy Street” is a show-stopper.

The technical and production staff did a commendable job with costumes, lighting, sound, props and a special shout-out goes to the set design and construction. The scene changes were fast and efficient. Splendid job by the tech and production staff. And, “Annie” would fall flat without the orchestra and music director that kept the pace moving and the tone lively throughout. What a stellar performance by the orchestra.

Cast: Josephine Pellow as Annie, Graham Fairleigh as Oliver Warbucks, Bridget MacNevin-Pfeiffer as Miss Hannigan, Bridget Angles as Grace Farrell, Delilah Pellow as Molly, Mia Cabrera as Kate, Isa Mullarney as Tessie, Bridget Walsh as July, Ava Hansen as Pepper, Sunny Govreau as Sandy, Maeve Donovan as Duffy, Alex Goering as Rooster, Rachel Reese as Lily St. Regis, Ken Koval as Bert Healy, Lauren Bridge as Star-to-Be, Chris Pierce as FDR/Lt. Ward, Bill Bergman as Harold Ickes/Ensemble, Pam Sollars as Sophie/Perkins/Ensemble, Joe Hall as Bundles McCloskey/Howe/Ensemble, Michael Young as Apple Seller/Ensemble, Paul Brennan as Drake/Ensemble, Tracie Jensen as Cecille/Ensemble, Debbie Blinn as Mrs. Pugh/Ensemble, Halley Sageng Hale as Annette/Ensemble, James Azeltine as Cordell Hull/Ensemble, Rod Chapin as Henry Morganthau/Enemble. Orphans included Juliana Allen, Emma Jane Davis, Maddie Huwe, Tierney Leathers, Louise Pfeiffer, Elayna Rodriguez, Tess Sollars; Orphan Dancers included Joey Brogden, Grace Piper Fields, Emery Hankins, Emma Lord, Teya Pak, Autumn Quarles, Anisa Reyna; Adult Ensemble included Ashley Elliott-Rowe, Sydney Gilman, Kristin Leathers, Lindsay Lovejoy, Brady Metcalf, Carmen Petterson.

Orchestra: Kenneth Tysick, conductor; Katie Stueve, keyboard; Laura Gray, Tosh Watanabe, violins; Kathleen Crilley, cello; Liz Karre, bass; Laura Newport, flute; Jerily Main, flute/piccolo; Jim Vinkeberg, alto/clarinet; Holly Hague, clarinet; Andrew Beckstrom, BradFooth, Michael Marsh, Dylan Stiles, trumpets; Steven Constance, Dave Lavatera, Ken Tysick, trombones; Bill Brine, percussion; Why Billings, percussion/aux; Bill Podrazik, tuba; Jerry Uppman, banjo/guitar; Lisa Watkins, Harp.
Production Staff: Chris McCoy, director/choreographer; Sara Goering, music director; Katie Blinn, stage manager; Katie Stueve, accompanist; Keneth Tysick, conductor; Annette Cook, costume designer; Mike Blinn, set designer; April Bishop, executive director; Bethany Fay, assistant director; Hannah Fuhlhage, assistant stage manager; Michael Scahill, set construction; Kyra Davila, Cindy Flaspohler, Wendy Pak, Krisa Reyne, Laurie Walker, props.

Technical Staff: Tyler Nissen, Harvest Productions; Cameron Porter, Harvest Productions; Harvest Productions; Courtney Hall, Harvest Productions, sound designer; Edward Hayo, Harvest Productions, lighting designer; Marica Putnam, graphic design; Michael Scahill, Eric Van Horn, James Azeltine, Jon Bakker, Bill Bergman, Rod Chapin, Bill Gintzel, Joe Hall, Mary Huwe, Tracie Jensen, Brenda Reese, Brian Tannahill, set construction.

“Annie” continues for three more performances July 20, 21, 22 at Ironwood. Performances are free, so plan a family outing for one of the happiest musicals of the last 30 years. “Annie” is a family winner in all aspects.

Tags:  Leawood Stage Company, “Annie”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

Images courtesy of Marica Putnam & Leawood Stage and Bob Evans

Author: Bob Evans

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2 Comments

  1. I’m so, SO, proud to call Graham my brother! Graham, you’ve been amazing since birth. I love you, tremendously. See you Friday!

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  2. You are so talented. We have prepared for your roll in Annie throughout our child hood congratulations you have done it. I love my cousin Graham. I hate that I have to miss it.

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