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Leapin' lizards! Annie comes to the Paramount
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Leapin' lizards! Annie comes to the Paramount

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

Annie
February 14
Paramount Theatre


There are many audience members that are easily charmed by the appearance of a child or an animal on stage. I am not one of them. I seem to be in the minority on this, at least judging from the audiences' reaction to Paramount Theater's production of the National Tour of Annie. I think my point was made when Sandy the dog (whose stage presence is a collective five minutes) received a louder round of applause than the title character.

The story line should be familiar. Annie is an 11-year-old residing at a state-run orphanage during the Great Depression - the first one - in 1933. She was left along with a note by parents who were trying to find work and couldn't afford to keep a child. Along with the other orphans, Annie baits Miss Hannigan, the bitter and resentful orphanage matron, until the young girl's successful (albeit temporary) escape can occur. While out searching for her parents, Annie rescues a stray dog named Sandy before being returned to the orphanage. After being taken to the home of billionaire Oliver Warbucks as a goodwill gesture for the winter holidays, the inevitable happens; Annie wins over the entire household with her charm and lyrical optimistic view of life. Hearing of Annie's good fortune, Miss Hannigan - with the help of her brother, Rooster, and his girlfriend - hatches a plan to kidnap Annie. In the end, true comic book style prevails and a happy ending is ensured. All bad guys are taken care of by the police. The president of the United States has saved the day, and Warbucks adopts Annie faster than you can say, "I love ya, tomorrow."

The musical first appeared on Broadway in 1977. Quickly, the song "Tomorrow" became a smash hit and both female leads, Annie and Miss Hannigan, pushed Andrea McArdle and Dorothy Loudon into full spotlight. But the show has been playing almost non-stop since then, and it may be time to put it to rest.

Annie (Madison Kerth) and the cast of orphans do OK jobs, for children. Their voices are not wonderful, and they do hit sour notes on occasion. The smallest girl, Molly (Mackenzie Aladjem), has been written to be "cute," and unless you are a parent or a fan of children, it wears thin quickly. If this was a community theater instead of a professional national touring company, I'd be more forgiving.

The best part of the show, without any doubt, hesitation or pause, is Miss Hannigan (Lynn Andrews). She doesn't steal focus; she marches in and grabs it before wrestling it to the ground. Her face is a true comic book of animation, and her voice rings out easily. Even the comically frightening gesture of smashing a doll's head against the table comes across much more comical than frightening because of Miss Andrews' perfect sense of timing and whimsical expressions. More than once my laughter erupted - sometimes without being appropriate - because of a simple gesture or look this woman exhibited while on stage.

This is definitely a children's show in every sense. Children play the majority of the leads. Children make up a good percentage of the audience. If you want to score points with your children (or be the favorite "uncle" or "aunt"), then this is the show to take them to see.

Thomas Meehan (Hairspray, The Producers) wrote the script for Annie, with music by Charles Strouse (Bye Bye, Birdie). The lyrics and original direction/concept belong to Martin Charnin (Two By Two), which was based on the comic strip created by Harold Gray. The songs are pleasant, ranging from simple ballads like "Maybe" to political commentary in "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover." The infamous song "Tomorrow" was originally written to cover a two-minute scene change. Its popularity was so great that it became the show's unofficial theme and went on to be a smash hit recording for many prominent singing artists.

Annie opened on Broadway in 1977 and went on to play more than 2,375 performances. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning seven of them. Dorothy Loudon (Miss Hannigan) and Andrea McArdle (Annie) shared nominations for Best Actress in a Musical, with the former actress winning the award. Two musical sequels were penned (Annie Warbucks and Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge), but neither compared to the original and both quickly closed.

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