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.
I have seen the show twice now Julie, like with Mommaknit I saw Lilla in June and Sadie in September. I was just asking, was there that much difference between this production and the original? Maybe they wanted you to use your imagination more with this show. After the newsreel stopped and the curtain went up, it took me about 30 seconds to realize that the girls performing their number were not part of the newsreel, stupid me huh? I could nitpick and say this was wrong or that was wrong but like you said, I came to see this production with an open mind, after seeing the '82 movie hundreds of times. I knew songs would be missing and that it was based around Christmas but I kept an open mind on what to expect. I enjoyed both performances that I saw and did not try to critique them against what I saw in the movie. It would be impossible to reproduce on stage what was produced on a movie sound stage, so I wasn't expecting to see gigantic sets, just simple backdrops or small foreground sets which is what I saw. So if I'm understanding what you're saying, there should have been more foreground sets, more dancing for the girls and things like that, that were in the original and are not in this production.
I have not seen the original production either, but from what I've seen in clips and have read over years of following this board, the 1982 movie was much further from the original production than even the current Broadway show is. So don't compare with that. The 1999 movie is a little closer, but not quite there. You can look up songs online or on this site's video page from the original production, like Hard Knock Life and Smile, to see how very different the choreography and staging were.
I just got done watching a number of video clips and the size of the Palace stage is probably what caused the problem with the set designs. I believe because of the size, that's why they chose to have the interior set of the orphanage on stage left only, instead of completely across it. The cost and mobility of the sets may have been a contributing factor as well. As others have pointed out, what was with just the desk in the middle of the stage, again I think the size of the stage made everything look either to big or to small because of the forced perspective that the sets caused. Oh well, thanks for the heads up about the video clips Natalie and yes the orphans could use better choreography. Can't wait to see Annie one final time on Broadway!!! Maybe they'll leave her alone until the 50th anniversary rolls around Then they can start afresh and maybe get it right this time, especially if they get input from former cast members.
Having been in the show before there ever even was a movie, I don't ever compare the stage version to the movie version. The movie took lots of liberties with the script, setting, time of year, and added characters from the comic strip, so it is a very different product. I can, however, compare the original Broadway production to this current Broadway revival. Yes, there were many changes made to the set, costumes, music, and script. I don't happen to feel that they were positive changes or good choices. I think that the script and music are so solid that they can withstand bad direction, but then you're left with what feels like an amateurish production.
I agree with Julie. The show should be seen on its own merits, which is difficult if one pays too much attention to other people's impressions. That is why I did not ask for Julie's opinion previously. Of course, I read what other people wrote and asked a couple questions about it, but there is always a danger in that. The strength of "Annie " lies in the music and the story and can be enjoyed regarding of other aspects of the show, including weaknesses of any particular productions. So go and enjoy closing night, without thinking about it too much. Those of us who have seen countless productions of the show dating from the early 70s on can perhaps pick up on certain details (and comparison) that newer fans cannot, but that is the beauty and legacy of "Annie," that the show continues to please, inspire and amaze new fans and generations.
Thank you, Julie, for sharing your impressions and observations.
I agree with you Julie. I saw both Lilla and Sadie. I feel Lilla would have been even better with a better director. Sadie in my opinion, was miscast. She was too sweet. Annie isn't suppose to be sweet. She would have never been cast by the original creators. If that were the case then why was Kirsten Vigard let go? With the exception of "New Deal", the choreography was horrible. The costumes were horrible. Call me an old school fan but I hated Annie's long hair. She looked like a Les Miz reject. She just didn't look like "Annie". Lilla was pretty much great but to really enjoy her performance I had to imagine her in shorter hair.A lot of the production looked like a bad stock version of our beloved play. In regards to the set and the costumes. Warlow was the best Warbucks by far and I saw Reid with 3 Annies. I loved the arrangements of the song and I love the cast recording much better than that anniversary recording. At least they got that right. The accents were a nice touch and I didn't mind it when Lilla sang. Sadie, well she was miscast. Too sweet. I know some people prefer that sweet Annie but that not Annie. That's not what the source material dictates. The adult supporting cast was dull and painful just last week when I saw it. They were much better when I saw the show with Lilla. Show has lost it's steam that's for sure. It could have been great because the music was worthy but... I also saw Matilda which I hate to say was a much better production and perhaps a better show. Keeping in mind it was built on the shoulders of Annie. The kids in that show had to do so much more than the kids in Annie. So, you'd think they give them better choreography to shine more. They certain seemed capable but they basically just walked around. Just my honest impression. Anyone who knows my posts knows that I am not a "hater". Everything "Annie" isn't always good. BTW I dread the new "Annie" movie coming out.
I think Allison Smith was on the sweeter side. Sadie does not have a traditional belt but I love her voice and think her acting is very compelling. Everyone has "their Annie" that they want to see...I enjoy a strong tough Annie like Lilla but also enjoy a younger and more childlike Annie...many of the original Annie's were much older (Andrea for one)
I agree they seemed to take away from the orphan roles (in amount of stage time and difficulty) which I think is weird seeing as most people come to see the kids and to be honest...kids sell on Broadway
Hi again, just thought of another innovation and interesting addition to this version of the show. At the beginning of the "Tomorrow" reprise during the White House scene when FDR has his cabinet members sing, they start singing the song gloriously offkey. Their pitches surprisingly improve during the song, but this was one of the more creative changes to the 2012 revival of "Annie" and on the CD, too.
Nope, that is nothing new, Ned. In the original production of "Annie," the cabinet members did not sing well. That was part of what made it so funny. I'm sure that it's notated in the original script to be directed that way.
Hi Julie, I guess I had never seen the cabinet members sing quite that poorly in any other production, either professional or community theater (and I have seen MANY), so that is what made it seem new to me. As much as there were aspects to the 2012 revival that I did not care for, I feel very grateful that I was able to finally see my dream fulfilled (which began in 1978): to see "Annie" on Broadway. Seeing it in the legendary Palace Theatre was icing on the cake.
Now I am listening to the New Broadway Cast Album, which again has its good and bad points. Some of the orchestrations have been revised, and although the orchestra's sound seems scaled back (fewer musicians), some song arrangements are pleasantly snazzy and lush i.e. "Easy Street" and "Something Was Missing." Katie's Hannigan has shades of brilliance in "Little Girls" and even sounds a bit like Faith Prince's turn as Ella Peterson in 2001's "Bells Are Ringing." It is interesting that Faith ended up as a Hannigan replacement. The biggest distraction for me are the turned on and then on accents. When I saw the show, the accents had been toned down, but on the CD, Lilla Crawford has the accent for part of a song and then it disappears only to resurface later. Accents are only effective when they are consistent. It reminds me of Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins." His cockney account was widely criticized, and although it did not affect the popularity of the show, is something that continues to be discussed 49 years after the film was released. Still, it is nice to have the CD as a souvenir of the show.