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