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Theatre Review (LA): Annie at Musical Theatre West

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Musical Theatre West had quite a season last year, highlighted by a marvelous production of 1776. To open this, their 59th season, they have chosen to revive Annie, the show about everyone’s favorite orphan, who seems to make an appearance every time the economy is in trouble.

It is a story of courage and optimism but I must admit I didn’t walk out feeling hopeful. The Great Depression was somewhat alleviated by the contributions of the wealthy and a liberal spirit of helping one’s fellow man. Corporations aren’t kindly rich bachelors that can be won over by the smile of a little girl.

Nevertheless it was good to see Annie again after all these years. The music is still catchy and the story touches the heart. The very best part about this production of Annie is the young leading lady, Melody Hollis, who played the title character with the surety and poise of a seasoned professional. Most importantly there wasn’t an ounce of preciousness about her; she appeared to be genuine and loving, with a voice that hit the heights. She is the best Annie that I have ever seen.

For the most part the rest of the cast does a yeoman-like job. Exceptional in this group are Michael Paternostro as Rooster Hannigan (boy can he dance), Bets Malone giving one of her usual fun performances as Lily St. Regis, Shannon Warne as Grace Farrell (a terrific voice), Jeff Austin as Daddy Warbucks, who seemed realer than I have ever seen the character and who sang a strong “Something Was Missing,” and a great cameo by Mark Capri as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Director and Artistic Director Steven Glaudini is known for casting outstanding singers. Unfortunately, the weakest member of the cast was Andrea McArdle as Miss Hannigan. She was the original Annie and still has a very powerful voice but sad to say she is just not funny, and Miss Hannigan needs to be funny. Another thing I noticed in this production was the use of principals as chorus members. Perhaps it is a sign of our current economy. Glaudini did a nice job of directing and Roger Castellano was the choreographer. Annie plays at Musical Theatre West until Nov. 14th.

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