Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Original Production Directed by Martin Charnin
Music Supervisor, Music Director, Additional Orchestrations – Keith Levenson
Choreography – Liza Gennaro
Set Designer – Beowulf Boritt
Lighting Designer – Ken Billington
Sound Designer – Peter Hylenski
Costume Designer – Suzy Benzinger
Annie – Amanda Swickle
Molly– Bunny Baldwin
Duffy – Katie Wylie
July– Jacqueline Galvano
Kate– Ava Slater
Miss Hannigan– Erin Fish
Apple Seller—Timothy Allen
Dog Catcher– Conor McGiffin
Asst. Dog Catcher – Todd Berkich
Lt. Ward- Connor Simpson
Eddie –Todd Berkich
Sophie the Kettle– Roxy York
Grace Farrell – Casey Prins
Drake–Adam Du Plessis
Mrs. Greer – Mia Fitzgibbon
Mrs. Pugh– Roxy York
Cecile– Caroline Lellouche
Annette – Katie Davis
Oliver Warbucks– Gilgamesh Taggett
Star to Be–Katie Davis
Rooster Hannigan–Michael Santora
Lily– Mallory King
Bert Healy– Todd Berkich
Fred McCracken– Conor McGiffin
Jimmy Johnson– Adam Du Plessis
Buddy, the Sound Effects Man– Timothy Allen
Bonnie Boylan– Katie Davis
Connie Boylan– Caroline Lellouche
Ronnie Boylan–Mia Fitzgibbon
Harold Ickes– Timothy Allen
Frances Perkins—Roxy York
Cordell Hull– Connor Simpson
Henry Morganthau–Todd Berkich
F.D.R. – Jeffrey B. Duncan
Louis Howe– Conor McGiffin
Judge Brandeis– Connor Simpson
Ensemble: Timothy Allen, Todd Berkich, Katie Davis, Adam Du Plessis, Mia Fitzgibbon, Caroline Lellouche, Conor McGiffin, Connor Simpson, Roxy York
Reviewed Performance 1/17/2017
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Premiering on Broadway in 1977, Annie is based on Harold Gray’s comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, a little red headed orphan and her adventures with dog Sandy, and benefactor, Oliver Warbucks. Little Orphan Annie inspired a weekly radio serial in 1930, and a popular film version in 1982, starring Broadway legends Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, and Tim Curry. Even if you have never seen the Broadway musical or the film adaptation, chances are you have been exposed to Annie in some way-whether it is a rendition of “Tomorrow”, or you recognize a sampling of “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from a 1998 dismal Jay-Z song, audiences of all ages have been entertained by this optimistic orphan character and her quest to find her parents for over 90 years.
Set in New York City in December 1933, the large ensemble cast includes a wealth of talent of all ages. The musical is a lengthy two and a half hours, however, the high energy and instantly recognizable songs allow the audience to pay no attention to the time, and to quickly get swept up into Annie’s story. It was the quickest two and a half hours I have ever spent in a musical theatre production-the pacing and the energy was high at this opening night performance of Annie, as Bass Hall kicked off its 2016-2017 “Broadway at the Bass” series. Audiences are quickly drawn into Annie’s quest to find her parents, and the symbolic locket she wears as her only connection to her missing parents. Set during Christmas, and on the cusp of F.D.R.’s New Deal, audiences are given an excellent history lesson of The Great Depression, and the politics of President Franklin Roosevelt during a time when the United States fell on hard times.
Set Designer Beowulf Boritt successfully transformed the grand proscenium stage of Bass Hall into multiple locations. It was impressive to see a complete contrast from the orphanage to Warbucks’ Fifth Avenue mansion. Sets moved in and on with ease and provided seamless and well-executed transitions. In a story with so many locations, each one was designed and conveyed with precision for detail. The stage was transformed into several large rooms (living room, Warbucks’ business office, and entry foyer-complete with a grand marble staircase). This was achieved with very little set dressing/furniture, and the use of painted screens and backdrops that contained painted windows, doors, and decorative pieces of art. These backdrops were able to transition from each location in the large mansion seamlessly, and quickly-never stopping the energy or action of the production. Usually, I am very turned off by backdrops. As a theatrical artist, I feel that sometimes they can be the “easy” way out. However, with this production, the exquisite detail and the three-dimensional effect of the backdrops certainly changed my mind. Bravo, Mr. Boritt. I have a new respect and appreciation for the function, purpose and artistic choice of backdrops and painted screens in large scale musical productions.
Lighting was designed by Ken Billington. Billington did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate and never cast distracting shadows. Through the performance, his cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. I especially enjoyed how the lighting complimented the scenic design, giving the impression of different times of day (sunrise and dusk) over the Brooklyn Bridge, and through the windows of the Warbucks’ home. The orphanage was dark and dreary with dimly lit and depressing atmosphere, while in contrast, Warbucks’ home illuminated with bright light, given the appearance of the luxurious and rich life of tycoon Oliver Warbucks. Perhaps, the best element of surprise was the illusion of snow falling through the windows on the evening of Christmas Eve in the moonlight. It really created an element of magic for the production, and gave the illusion of a fantastic three-dimensional effect in the window on Christmas Day. Often times, the hard work and creativity of the lighting designer can be overlooked, however, it is apparent to me that Mr. Billington took great care and invested tremendous details to collaborating with the scenic and costume designers to conceive and create the suggestion of 1930’s New York-taking audiences on a journey.
Suzy Benzinger designed costumes that were not only period appropriate but had a fine attention to detail. I enjoyed seeing the women of the cast in extraordinary 1930’s hats- a fashion trend that I wish would make a recurrence today. Everyone in the ensemble had extremely different costumes, and there was never a point in this production when I felt that costumes were similar to one another. Each ensemble player wore a unique costume (for each role) adding to their importance to the story. Each ensemble player (who portrayed double or triple roles) each looked so different from one another that it was difficult to tell who was playing multiple roles. I would consider this a great success of Ms. Benzinger. As a fellow costume designer, we spend countless hours researching, creating, and designing costumes that truly create the visual persona of these fictional characters. When faced with the ultimate challenge of having actors and actresses play multiple roles, the variable changes and we must devise ways to make each character different from one another. Ms. Benzinger certainly delivers in this aspect of the design-giving uniqueness and exclusivity to each character in the story. Costumes were visually appealing, and were an excellent reminder of the wardrobe of the 1930’s.
Amanda Swickle was incredibly believable in the role of Annie. Through facial expression, and body language, Swickle convincingly portrayed the optimistic eleven year old seeking to find her parents, and to provide a little hope to those around her. Her role was very loveable, and her enthusiasm and honesty on stage was nearly constant, having appropriate interaction with her young ensemble members, and endearing and strong on stage relationships with Miss Hannigan, Mr. Warbucks, and Grace Farrell. Swickle never faltered in her delivery, and was able to hold her own on stage alongside these very talented adult actors. I look forward to seeing Miss Swickle in future productions, and seeing her maturity blossom in future roles.
Oliver Warbucks was played by Gilgamesh Taggett (isn’t that the best name for an actor?!). Taggett was very convincing through facial expressions, and a powerful and tender voice. In this production, Warbucks was very soft, and likeable. A difference that I very much enjoyed in comparison to the 1982 movie role, portrayed by Albert Finney, who was very stern, direct and somewhat less loveable. I thought that the duality between Warbuck’s businessman persona and his desire to become Annie’s father was a nice contrast, and provided depth to his character. By the end of the story, his character had taken a journey, and had transformed into someone new. My favorite musical number of Mr. Taggett was “Something Was Missing,” a song that was omitted from the 1982 film. It was nice to hear it on stage. Overall, Mr. Taggett’s performance was very impressive.
The role of Miss Hannigan, the mean-spirited matron of the orphanage was skillfully portrayed by Erin Fish. Through facial expressions, and a larger than life personality, Ms. Fish’s performance was appropriate to the role. Ms. Fish provided humor to her musical numbers (“Little Girls” and “Easy Street”) with her choreography, and interaction with her “Little Girls” of the orphanage. The role of Miss Hannigan one of my favorites from Annie, and from modern Broadway in general. Ms. Fish certainly did the role justice and was most remarkable with her “nasty” partners in crime Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis (played wonderfully by Michael Santora and Mallory King). Their rendition and performance of “Easy Street” quickly became a show-stopper in the end of the Act I.
I was also impressed with Jeffrey B. Duncan’s portrayal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is evident that Mr. Duncan has spent quite a deal of time researching and listening to audio recordings of F.D.R. His performance was spot on. From the vocal delivery to facial expressions and mannerisms, his portrayal of the New Deal President was authentic, and added quite a bit of realism to the history of the story. It was almost as if Mr. Roosevelt was actually there on stage. It can be difficult to approach a fictional representation of a factual person. Often times, audiences have a difficult time being convinced and sold on the idea that the factual person is on stage. Mr. Duncan does it on stage with naturalism and ease.
This production of Annie is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. From the moment the overture begins, and the instantly recognizable songs are previewed, you will be enthralled. Not only is it an excellent history lesson for audiences of all ages, but also, it is an excellent way to introduce Annie’s story to first time theatergoers. On the evening I attended, the house was full of “children” of all ages…the young, and the young-at-heart. Annie is one of the quintessential modern Broadway classics that everyone should see. Take a break from the “Hard Knock Life” and head down “Easy Street” to Bass Hall in Fort Worth and see Annie…directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin. It is truly a treat for all!
Broadway at the Bass
Bass Performance Hall
4th and Calhoun Streets
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
Plays through January 22nd.
Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 pm
Friday, Jan. 20th at 7:30 pm
Saturday, Jan. 21 at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, Jan. 22 at 1:30 pm and 6:30 pm
Ticket prices range from $44.00-$121.00, based on day and seating.
For more information, or to purchase tickets visit http://www.basshall.com, or call the box office at 817-212-4280, or toll free at 1-877-212-4280.