TheaterTheater Review

‘Annie’ Rings In the Holidays at the Woodlawn

Roy Bumgarner’s Daddy Warbucks is flanked by Maya Abelow and Alex Phillips, who alternate as the title character in ‘Annie,’ now playing at the Woodlawn Theatre (photo courtesy Woodlawn Theatre).

Opening on Broadway more than 40 years ago, Annie, the Tony Award-winning musical based on Harold Gray‘s long-running comic strip Little Orphan Annie, still retains the power to charm.

Though it’s set in Manhattan during the depths of the Great Depression, Annie tells the timeless story of a young girl whose positive attitude influences the behavior of everyone she encounters.

Well, almost everyone. Miss Hannigan, who runs the orphanage in which she lives, is such a nasty tyrant that Annie frequently finds herself defending the other girls against the woman’s cruelty.

When Annie is chosen to spend the Christmas holidays at the home of wealthy Oliver Warbucks, she quickly captures the hearts of the entire household. Annie longs to find her real parents, however, and Warbucks offers a reward of $50,000 to anyone who can locate them. This attracts the attention of Miss Hannigan and her scheming friends, Rooster and Lily, who plan to impersonate Annie’s folks and collect the money for themselves.

Between the 1982 film version and Annie‘s various stage and television incarnations produced throughout the years, most everyone is familiar with Annie‘s musical numbers, including “Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “Maybe” and the show-stopper “Tomorrow.” They are all performed by an excellent cast at the Woodlawn, accompanied by Jane Hass’s terrific-sounding five-piece orchestra.

ArtScene SA attended the Nov. 25 performance featuring Alex Phillips, one of the two young actresses alternating as the title character. She perfectly captures the can-do attitude of Gray’s spunky orphan, and Roy Bumgarner is fine as “Daddy” Warbucks. Melissa Gonzalez has s field day as the tippling, child-hating Miss Hannigan. Cary Farrow and Kahlee Moore are amusing as the streetwise Rooster and Lily, and Miles Erwin is a kind-hearted President Roosevelt.

The ensemble of young performers (many coming from the Woodlawn youth program) display dancing and singing abilities beyond their years, and they are solidly directed by Christopher Rodriguez, while Carla Sankey contributes the fine choreography. Benjamin Grabill’s scenic design captures the look of 1930s New York. Also providing their usual high-quality contributions are Chris Muenchow (lighting design), Benjamin Farrar (sound and projection design), Rose Kennedy (costume design) and Denise Ebarra (make-up, hair and wig design).

One of many shows being offered in the Alamo City this holiday season, Annie is a fine choice for youngsters and nostalgia-seeking adults alike.

Annie plays Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through Dec. 23 at the Woodlawn Theatre, 1920 Fredericksburg Road. Reservations can be made online or by calling (210) 267-8388.

Feature photo by Siggi Ragnar

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