I am finally putting my thoughts together from the performance of “Annie” that I witnessed at the Palace Theatre on Wednesday, August 7, 2013, at 2:00 PM. It was quite the experience for this Annie and Judy Garland fan to be at the legendary Palace Theatre.
I want to encourage anyone of you Annie fans to catch the show. The show stands on its own merits, regardless of what anyone else says who has already seen this particular production. It has good points and not-so-good points. I enjoyed seeing the show on Broadway for the first time since I heard the original cast album in early 1978. It is hard to believe that so much time has flown by since then.
I was excited that I was able to see this version of the musical. Since my family and I live in Ecuador, and a trip that we made to PA to visit Mom and Dad coincided with the time that “Annie” was still playing in New York. From the overture played while the newsreels were projected onto the curtain (one of the show’s highlights was having the actors “star” in the newsreels, a wonderful idea) until the final curtain call, I was in “Annie” heaven. That is not to say that I enjoyed everything about the show, as mentioned above.
Sadie Sink portrayed Annie at the matinee that I saw. She captured well the toughness of the orphanage Annie and the tenderness displayed with Daddy Warbucks and Grace and the heartfelt optimism in the White House scene. I was not really impressed too much by her singing voice. True, her voice had a childlike quality which goes with the part, but it did not seem to have the strength that I have heard from other Annies and occasionally went off key.
Sadie and the other orphans probably provided the strongest moments due to their enthusiasm. The adult ensemble, particularly in the radio scene and the Hooverville scene and “NYC,” did not demonstrate much energy or enthusiasm for what they were doing. It seemed almost like autopilot. Things were better in “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here,” which involved two of the servants’ opening a “book” to change the part of the scenery which was innovative and held our attention.
I though the “Hard Knock Life” scene was charming when the orphans used each other for mops to make it “shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.” Equally, when the orphans danced with each other, in their reprise of “You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile,” it put a smile on my face. Of course, it wasn’t like their dance in the original production or the tours, but it was well done and kept the scene moving along with originality.
The scenery in “NYC” seemed small and cheap to me. I am all for taking advantage of the audience’s imagination, but when the production number itself lacks energy, it all falls rather flat. The Christmas tree at the end did not make sense. When it first went up, and the lights were dim, it looked green, but when the lights came up, it looked nothing like a Christmas tree. In contrast, I enjoyed having Miss Hannigan go downstairs to get to the orphans this time. It added a bit to the suspense of having her arrive to the room to see what she would do.
Some of the dialogue that was changed for this production seemed unnecessary. For example, why point out that one of the orphans was Asian? Isn’t that plain enough to see without drawing attention to her ethnicity? Didn’t seem to make much sense. When Nell Carter played Hannigan and Jim Ryan played Rooster during the 20th anniversary cast, no dialogue highlighted the fact. That is the beauty of “blind casting.” Brynn O’Malley as Grace was good but not really memorable, but that speaks more to her role than anything else. The creators of “Annie” developed and expanded her role for “Annie Warbucks,” the second sequel to “Annie.”
Faith Prince as Hannigan and Anthony Warlow as Warbucks turned in strong performances: Prince was witty and “moved well,” as she likes to describe her dancing. Her “Little Girls” was FAITHful to the original as well as new in some of her phrasing. The ending with the red lights and the girls frozen in time came across a bit over the top, though. Warlow has a strong voice and was pleasantly poignant in his scenes with Sadie. His affection for her shone through and did not seem forced in any way. At some points he seemed to be overacting, like in the radio scene. Joel Hatch stood out as Drake, in a good balance between content and grumpy.
One pet peeve: the theatre seated latecomers for the first 15 minutes of each act, which was very distracting. My friend and I missed at least the first 10 minutes of Act 1 and Act 2, because there were people being seated, talking, getting up to let the latecomers in their row, etc. Whatever happened to making people wait until an appropriate break? The show starts immediately with one of the best songs in the show, "Maybe," which we could not enjoy. The second act begins with the radio scene, and not being able to see it well may have affected my opinion of that part.
The New York accents did not affect me in the least. Rather, I did not notice them most of the time. Going in, that was one of the main things that I was concerned about. I was pleasantly pleased with “Annie.” However, I do think that it could have been improved upon significantly. One of the reasons that a high profile director such as James Lapine was brought in was to cast a new vision, and I found innovation lacking in this production of “Annie,” which overall lacked the magic of the original production. Still, it was a heartwarming afternoon in the theatre, and I encourage all of you to indulge before the show closes on January 5, 2014. But, take a ton of money if you are planning to buy show merchandise. I found everything to be way overpriced. For instance, $10 for a magnet? I passed.
Thanks for the review! Hadn't Junah left the show by the time you saw it? I figured they would have taken out the Korean joke when she left.
here the thing, I think reason they kept it is cause mostly anyone can speak korean if they want to learn it, they don't have to look korean, to speak it. Isn't line "This one speaks korean," not "this person is from korea," she could be but still. Everyone is diffferent and thats her character. A koeran orphan.
Isn't one of the new orphans also Asian? Not sure, but in the new photos I thought was girl was, although I don['t think necessarily Korean?
Thanks for the honest review , Ned.I'm glad the accents have been toned down, too.
Amaya (July) looks like she's from south Asia, but definitely not Korean. I have a feeling they added that joke in the first place just because Junah actually speaks Korean.
Thanks for your review! Good point about Grace's character being expanded for Annie Warbucks - I haven't seen the show, but, listening to the album, that's probably my favorite thing about it.
I would be interested in hearing Julie's impressions of seeing this "Annie," as well as anybody else's who was part of the original Broadway production.
I didn't care for this production. In my opinion, it lacked charm, humor and originality. I think that the choice in director, choreographer, set designer and costume designer were all wrong. The kids were adorable, but it was hard for any of them to stand our or shine, due to bad direction and unimaginative choreography.
Julie, as a little boy back in the 40's I would sit on my fathers' lap as he would read me old comic strips about Little Orphan Annie. It's one of the few precious memories I can still recall of my daddy, our shared love of Annie. At one point Annie was sort of a crime fighter and her birthday is February 29th according to Wikipedia. My question to you is this, since you seem to have some issues with this production, can you expand on your comments without hurting anyone's feelings? The reason I'm asking is since this is the only production of Annie I have ever seen, what am I missing that you seem to see? I like this production, although I too found fault with some things. I have the original vinyl cast album I bought in the 70's I believe and a CD but I have not played them in awhile. I didn't want to listen to them and have a preconceived opinion on my first live production on Broadway. I will be seeing Annie one final time on closing night, are there any things from the original production that I can visualize when I see it in January?
I think that you should see the show without any opinions from anyone. I'm sure that you will enjoy it. I happen to know the show inside and out and have very high expectations of any production. I just don't agree with a lot of the choices that they made in this production, but that doesn't mean that it isn't an enjoyable experience for other people.