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[THEATER] Ming Cho Lee's Sets Add Greatly to "Annie"

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  • madchinaman
    Annie is as young as ever The touring 70s musical refuses to show its age at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. By Lynne Heffley, Times Staff Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2007
      'Annie' is as young as ever
      The touring '70s musical refuses to show its age at the Orange County
      Performing Arts Center.
      By Lynne Heffley, Times Staff Writer
      http://www.calendarlive.com/stage/cl-et-annie2feb02,0,3039629.story?
      coll=cl-stage


      -

      And a big shout-out to set designer Ming Cho Lee for his contribution
      to the show's spirited renewal: delightfully askew, ever-so-slightly
      disturbing realizations of orphanage, city and mansion. Those bleak
      orphanage walls? You can almost feel the rising damp.

      -


      "Annie," the Charles Strouse-Thomas Meehan-Martin Charnin perennial
      about the plucky comic strip orphan, arrived Tuesday at the Orange
      County Performing Arts Center with renewed sparkle and buckets of
      charm.

      Yes, the show still flags somewhat in the second act and seems a mite
      long at a little over 2 1/2 hours, especially for the youngest
      audience members. But the freshness of this new national tour,
      directed with buoyant touch by lyricist Charnin, who helmed the
      original Tony-winning production on Broadway some 30 years ago, makes
      up for such quibbles.

      So does 12-year-old Marissa O'Donnell's performance in the title role.

      O'Donnell has the prerequisite big, clarion-clear vocals — and the
      acting chops not to overdo them. She heads a cadre of other scarily
      talented little girls, all of whom act, dance and sing like veterans,
      including scene-stealer Anastasia Korbal, 6, as youngest orphan
      Molly. They're upstaged only when the big fluffy canine playing Sandy
      (real name Lola) makes an entrance.

      Alene Robertson mugs up a comic storm as blowsy orphanage matron Miss
      Hannigan, complemented by Scott Willis and Ashley Puckett Gonzales as
      bunco-artist Rooster and his partner-in-crime, Lily St. Regis.
      Elizabeth Broadhurst is a nice combination of warmth and svelte style
      as Daddy Warbucks' secretary Grace.

      Conrad John Schuck, still one of the show's biggest assets after
      thousands of turns as gruff but kind Daddy Warbucks, reprises his
      signature role. Far from phoning it in, Schuck conveys subtle, un-
      cartoon-like emotional depth as the brusque billionaire who falls for
      a scrappy orphan. He and O'Donnell seem to have a genuinely tender
      connection; their waltzes together are downright lump-in-the-throat
      time.

      Vocals are uniformly spot-on, while the score, with its Sousa-like
      brass accents and a few welcome dark notes, is delivered with
      crispness and bounce by a small ensemble led by music director Kelly
      Ann Lambert. The Kurt Weill-ish "We'd Like to Thank You Herbert
      Hoover," sung with heavy irony by down-and-outs in a "Hooverville"
      encampment, adds needed edge — as does the gently satiric,
      catchphrase-laden Cabinet meeting with Franklin D. Roosevelt (Allan
      Baker), the setup for a "Tomorrow" reprise.

      Theoni V. Aldredge's costume designs (with additional costumes by
      Jimm Halliday) are sumptuous. And a big shout-out to set designer
      Ming Cho Lee for his contribution to the show's spirited renewal:
      delightfully askew, ever-so-slightly disturbing realizations of
      orphanage, city and mansion. Those bleak orphanage walls? You can
      almost feel the rising damp.
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