'Annie' at the Warner Theatre - My Review

A mesmerizing production of the the story of Little Orphan 'Annie'

UPDATE: I have uploaded a great video of photos from Annie.

Ten years ago, the final show at the Warner Theatre before it closed for its major renovation was Annie directed by Julian Kron. Mr. Kron has returned to the (now stunning) Warner to direct . I can't speak of the previous production, but after attending opening night with 1200 other audience members, I can tell you that this summer's production is magnificent. In my mind, the 150 volunteers involved in this version have raised the show to a new level of production that other community theatres will be hard pressed to achieve.

During the three hour show for which I had complimentary tickets, the huge and very talented cast sang, danced and acted out the story of the hopelessly optimistic orphan "Annie." They did it wearing wonderful costumes by Helen Adams in front of a sumptuous set designed by the director and Keith Winegar. The fifteen-member orchestra in the pit under the direction of David Irvine would give any Broadway pit a run for its money.

I couldn't possibly highlight every member of the cast, but I can say that each of them was wonderful in their role, and (for some of them) roles. The large number of young ladies that played the orphans were genuine and adorable; the older girls gently nudged the tiniest (as young as age five) into their places, much as in real life. The Rundhaug sisters, both making their Warner debuts, lead the ranks with the youngest Grace playing an impossibly cute "Molly" and elder sister Sophie playing the title role. Her "Annie" has a lot of charm and spunk and the young actress is a natural. The natural blonde dyed her hair red for the show and refreshingly only sports the curly wig for the final scene when the staff "gussies her up." She handles the well-behaved dog who plays "Sandy" with aplomb, perhaps because (according to his program bio) he resides with the actresses' family after being rescued in West Virginia.

Among the numerous "Little Girls" in the cast (whose parents had a credited Parent Coordinator) are three young boys who play newsboys. My friend second-grader-to-be Michael Meier made his Warner debut and was quite charming.

Don't think that this production rests on the laurels of its youngest cast members; the adults are amazing as well. Some of my favorites include Doreen Lopez as both "Mrs. Pugh" and "Harriet Ickes;" her daughter Alana appeared in the ensemble. went from "Bundles McCloseky," to "Jimmy Johnson (The Masked Announcer.)" to cabinet member "Hans Morgenthau." Katie Langham was a lovely "Grace Farrell" and Bronwyn Hamill, Stephanie Kull, and Katie Tewksbury as the "lovely Boylen Sisters" were fun to watch.

In the tricky role of "Miss Hannigan," Juliette Koch was playing the game with an injury and was really amazing. This is her take on the opening:

Opening night was amazing! I have to say that I had difficulty singing "Tomorrow" at curtain call. Looking out into an audience of over 1,200 people ....young and old...up on their feet singing along, many of them with tears in their eyes.... Wow! I had to fight my own tears back.

As "Miss Hannigan's" brother "Rooster," John Ozerhoski (otherwise known as WZBG's  Backstage Johnny O) had us in stitches; his over-the-top costumes and choreography by Sharon A. Wilcox only helped to bring this character to life. His partner in crime, "Lily St. Regis," was played to perfection by Erin Spector. Oliver Warbucks ("the billionaire") was expertly portrayed by Jim Wood. 

Even if you have seen Annie repeatedly in the past, this production is worth the trip to Torrington. It is just that good. The Company numbers are extremely impressive, while the smaller scenes tug at the heartstrings. I wholeheartedly recommend that "Maybe" "Tomorrow" you to theatrically visit "N.Y.C." and see this wonderful production of Annie, with or without your favorite young person.

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