ANNIEBook by Thomas Meehan, Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Gateway Performing Arts
Gabrielle Norris – Annie*
Michael Klefeker – Warbucks
Nicole Choate – Grace
Heather Reddick – Hannigan
Josue Summers – Rooster
McKayla Winn – Lily
*Annie is played by Alyssa Martin Weds at 7pm and Saturday at 2pm
Valarie Abraham, Sekolia Ambres, Truett Billups, Channing Boyer, Maddison Brandley, Haley Cain, Kailah Coleman, Scott Doust, Bridgette Fargason, Joshua Fargason, Drayton Felts, Larkin Felts, Darian Fitch, Danielle Hall, Hannah Huggins, Eli Munroe, Lila Pedrosa, Alex Petrin, Genevieve Robertson, Addyson Rudd, Paisley Snodgrass, Sarah Steenkamp, Esther Stoehr, Shaun Stoehr, Rebekah Swyers, Keith Swyers, Jesse Taylor, Kaden Watkins, Kahli Young
Director – Megan Adams
Music Director – Jill Brewer
Choreographer – Karina Alonso
Producer – Erik Snodgrass
Executive Producer – Jason Tam
Sr. Executive Producer – Thomas Miller
Production Manager – Ryan Warren
Stage Managers – Rachel Turner, Victoria Watson
Scenic Design – Randel Wright/ Fabrication: Frankie Aglio, Mike Klefeker
Backdrop Animation – Kevin Schreiber
Properties Design – Michael Klefeker/Managed by Teighlor Brewton
Costume Design – Harris Costumes/ Managed by Jordan Thomas
Hair and Makeup Design – Rachel Turner
Lighting Design – Pavel Perebillo/ Operated by Stage Corps, CG Operation – Aiden Wilson
Sound Engineer - -Mike Luzecky/ Audio Assistant -- Moises Timaure
Vocal Coach – Jill Brewer
Assistant Choreographer – Ryan Warren
Assistant Music Director – Layci Jones
Assistant Stage Manager – Angie Culp
Scripter – Michael Luzecky
Reviewed Performance: 8/4/2019
Reviewed by Stacey Upton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Director Megan Adams and her crew have done a fantastic job bringing this iconic musical to life. For those not in the know, “Annie” is the story of an orphan who navigates life with an undying sense of hope and courage, resolved to find her family set in 1933 New York City, right before Roosevelt’s New Deal is born. It’s easy to do “Annie” poorly, but difficult to do it well – the cast calls for exceptional talent from very young performers, and there are roles that easily turn cartoonish in the wrong hands. Delightfully, Gateway Performing Arts has done it very well. Adams says in her program notes that “Annie is a story of hope – determined hope.” and that is what comes across loud and clear in this production. It’s the kind of production that sends you out of the theatre humming, very glad you took the time to go to the show. She has marshalled her cast wonderfully, making sure every single character is fully realized. Adams has sanded off some of the rougher edges of this musical without falling into schtick or cartoon buffoons – her actors portray characters who are accessible and understandable, and all of them have at least a tiny bit of good in them, even if buried deeply. It is a wonderful choice, perhaps a needed one in these troubled times to show the humanity that exists in everyone. Adams’ direction does this story and its message of plucky resilience proud.
“Annie” requires a lot of its titular young actress, and Gabrielle Norris does not disappoint. Gifted with a clear, strong voice she easily handles “Tomorrow” and the rest of the songs she is given, and moves through her numbers with professional aplomb. Norris takes her job as the lead seriously, and has great stage presence. Her sweet manner makes it easy for us to love Annie, and she does a good job with her Jersey accent to get a bit of tough street kid into the mix as well. Her moments with Warbucks are appropriately touching. This is an “Annie” who hits all the right notes. Michael Klefeker as Warbucks plays his role with kindness. Often this role can come across as mean-spirited and out-of-touch initially but Klefeker’s take on the role makes Warbucks lonely but loveable from the very beginning. His willingness to let Annie go even if he will be wounded by the loss was very well handled. He has great comedic timing and a strong voice. Klefeker is all over this production, having designed much of the set and large props as well as helping to build them. Warbuck’s counterpart and assistant who might become something more, Grace, is performed with intelligence by Nicole Choate with an effortless smile and gorgeous voice. Her delightful moments with Annie in numbers like “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” and the show-stopping “N.Y.C.” were rousing and fun. Choate has a beautiful way of moving onstage and wonderful stage presence.
A standout in this production was Heather Reddick as Hannigan. She managed to be hilariously funny but also had a tinge of humanity about her that you don’t often see in this role. It was a wonderful choice, humanizing what is often a rote villain. Her belt voice is superb, and she made the most of every moment she was on stage. Reddick is one of those performers you’d go see in anything – she puts her all into her role with fantastic results. Her “Little Girls” was simply wonderful, and later when she is joined by her no-good brother Rooster, played with style and pizzazz by Josue Summers and his floozy girlfriend Lily artfully portrayed by McKayla Winn, the trio breaks out into a memorable sassy rendition of “Easy Street” that I am sure all of us audience members will be humming happily for the next few days.
The orphans in this piece were a delight – each one of these young actresses shone on the stage, and did their choreography beautifully while singing enthusiastically on key. Paisley Snodgrass, Hannah Huggins, Addyson Rudd, Lila Pedrosa, Genevieve Robertson, Kahli Young, Esther Stoehr, and Kadyn Watkins were outstanding as the orphans who perform songs such as ‘Hard Knock Life” and ‘Fully Dressed.” Each one of these actresses kept in character and focused on the world they were creating onstage, interacting with each other beautifully. Paisley Snodgrass, Hannah Huggins, and Addyson Rudd in particular stood out in their individual roles, but truly all these girls are to be commended, high-fived and given flowers for their wonderful work.
The ensemble was terrific. Taking on various characters such as Hooverville residents, NYC denizens, and Servants they all were fully engaged. Tiny moments filled the stage – a side bet being placed by servants, live mannikins in the window, hungry homeless people, proud cooks, annoyed special-effects men, cabinet ministers who are forced to “sing along” – this attention to detail above and beyond the choreography and singing made this performance truly special. All the scenes featuring the ensemble sparkled. It was also clear that everyone was having fun, so we the audience had fun too.
There were some smaller roles that shone. Alex Petrin as the opinionated butler Drake, Haley Cain as a marvelous “Star to Be,” Darian Fitch as the ever-smiling Bert Healy, and the excellent Scott Doust who nailed the role of President Roosevelt were standouts in a group that were all working at the top of their game. We must also mention that Sandy the dog was a scene stealer in the most adorable way.
Excellent choreography by Karina Alonso made the musical numbers pop. Her staging of “N.Y.C” had multiple moving parts that dazzled – one would be hard-pressed to find a better piece of choreography in the DFW area. “Hard Knock Life” with the orphans was another standout production number as was the end piece “A New Deal for Christmas.” Music director Jill Brewer did an outstanding job with her cast –every word was understandable, the diction crisp, and the harmonies on point.
Finally, this show had a terrific set that made excellent use of projections as well as large moving sections. The folding, moving, double-sided set was a joy to watch being briskly shifted, folded and unfolded during act breaks. Smart lighting kept us focused on what was important, and the props and costumes were wonderfully executed. These outstanding production elements elevated this musical and made it a pro show that you will enjoy seeing – take your kids, they will love every minute. So will you.
ANNIE has 9 more performances, Weds-Sunday of this week. Go to www.gatewayperformingarts.com for more information and to purchase tickets.