Broadway: Currently On Stage: Annie, The Other People
By Ellis Nassour
Charles Strouse and Martin Charin’s classic musical Annie, with a fun book by Thomas Meehan [later, The Producers], is all too often considered a children’s/family musical. Of course, it is that. But the current revival has lots of great songs and humor – including in jokes – to satisfy adults.
It wasn’t particularly surprising to hear several adults saying they were at the revival because it was the first show their parents took them to or a show they say when a kid and still vividly remember.
This production benefits from an Annie, Lilla Crawford, who has no problems projecting. She’s got an Ethel Merman belt! And a winning performance from Australian actor and recording artist Anthony Warlow [Phantom of the Opera, Les Miz, among numerous others], who’s making his Broadway debut in the role of Daddy Warbucks. Warlow, the recipient of many awards from Down Under, has the distinction of being named a Living National Treasure. He certainly is a treasure in this revival.
Orphanage matron Miss Hannigan is drunken throughout, but as over-the-top played by Tony and Drama Desk winner Katie Finneran [Promises, Promises revival] her bits come over mostly as prodigious slapstick.
Sometimes a featured actor can easily steal moments in a show. Annie has two scene-stealers – well, okay, three: eight-year-old [looking years younger] Molly Rosenfeld as the preconscious Molly; Broadway veteran of numerous musicals Merwin Foard as President Roosevelt, who brief rendition of "Tomorrow" late in Act Two puts a new spin on the long popular tune; and, then, there’s that two-year-old Sunny, the terrier mix straight to Broadway from an animal shelter [Sunny’s understudy followed the same route].
Theatergoers of a certain age can appreciate sets [sometimes it’s been known to leave musicals humming the set]. Annie benefits from the extraordinary talent of Drama Desk and Obie winner David Korins [who has an additional seven Drama Desk nominations; it’s hard to believe there hasn’t been a Tony nomination]. Thanks to Korins, The Phanton of the Opera isn’t the only show that has a dazzling chandelier [and, get this: in a bit of stage magic, his becomes a Christmas tree!]. His "turning pages" concept of Daddy Warbucks mansion is not only unique but will be long remembered [and maybe get him that Tony nomination].
One thing no one, except someone terribly hearing-impaired, will complain about is not hearing the show. The musical numbers are tremendously over-amplified. Sadly, given that today’s new performers don’t annunciate when they sing out over all that amplification, is that sung dialogue sounds mumbled.
Any fan of TV’s Roseanne cannot forget the many performance nuances Laurie Metcalf brought to that show that netted her three Emmy Awards. Many may not know she’s also a brilliant stage actress who seemingly can turn herself inside out if a role requires.
She’s equally adept at high comedy as she is with high drama. Her work at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, in London, regionally, and on Broadway is the stuff of legend. Easily, she can be called an actor’s actor. Her acclaimed and Drama Desk-nominated portrayal of the terrified and brittle biophysicist Juliana in Manhattan Theatre Company’s production of Sharr White’s searing play The Other Place Off Broadway has segued to a Broadway transfer, giving audiences an opportunity to see one of the season’s most accomplished performances; one that will surely put her in the running for a Tony nomination.
Drama Desk nominee Bill Pullman (TV’s 1600 Penn) is stepping into the role of Juliana’s husband with Daniel Stern playing his final performance Sunday. He’s leaving the production due to a family emergency.