Eternally optimistic 'Annie' is a hit
Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre's "Annie" opened to a packed house Saturday night to revel in the adventures of America's favorite orphan as she searches for her parents during the Depression and ends up being adopted by a billionaire -- inspiring America's New Deal along the way.
The red velvet curtain lifts to reveal the grim NYC orphanage of 1933, with stained walls and little girls huddled under meager blankets. Annie, not to be discouraged, belts out hopes about her parents, who left her in 1922 with a note saying they would return. Soon the heartless, hard-drinking Miss Hannigan staggers in to make the ragged girls scrub the floor at 4 a.m., kicking off a rousing rendition of "Hard Knock Life." But Annie's optimism can't be quailed and she sings out her confidence in "Tomorrow." She escapes with the laundry pickup and her adventures continue until the fairytale ending.
The TVRT does its usual fine job with the staging and choreography of this popular musical. Success also depends on the leading roles, and each one is superb. Annie is played by Jordyn Foley, a sixth-grader from Brentwood who was 7 when she was traveled on a national tour of "Annie" in the role of Molly. Besides her powerful singing voice, she's loveable, spunky and perpetually cheerful, so it's believable when the crusty billionaire Oliver Warbucks falls for her.
Jess Martinez is perfect as Warbucks, the hardnosed business tycoon who hobnobs with President Roosevelt and personally contacts J. Edgar Hoover to find Annie's parents. He delivers "N.Y.C." and "Something was Missing" with sentimentality, and his song and dance routines hit the mark.
Julia Etzel brings out the humor and horror of Miss Hannigan, as she yells, drinks and desperately searches for adult love and an escape from the "Little Girls." Her brother Rooster (Erik Scanlon), who is accompanied by his moll Lily St. Regis (Sarah Schori), is a loose-limbed crook, and together the three plot a con to land them on "Easy Street."
Children in the audience seemed to love the show although the Depression and political humor are aimed at adults. When Warbucks invites FDR to dinner he orders his secretary: "Find out what Democrats eat." The only actor who was less than enthusiastic was the stray dog Sandy, played by a dog rescued from a shelter, and whose name, coincidentally, is Annie. But the cast members kept Sandy in tow and her confused expressions added to the overall fun.
Cute kids, an upbeat story with a happy ending set to catchy music -- what more could a theater-goer want? Good job by producer Kathleen Breedveld, director John J. Maio, choreographer Christina Lazo, vocal director Min Kahng, musical director-Jo Anne Fosselman and the rest of the talented production and artistic staff as well as those onstage and in the orchestra pit.
Fun for all ages