Monday, September 3, 2012

Annie Junior – Based on “Little Orphan Annie” – Book by Thomas Meehan, Music by Charles Strouse and Lyrics by Martin Charnin

By Joe Straw

I have not heard of Annie Junior but I was given tickets to see this production at the Grace Lutheran Church on Overland in Culver City.  It is a part of the Broadway Junior Collection that camps, like this, are allowed to do with the permission of The Tribune Media Services, Inc., and directed by Marina Tidwell.

As it turns out this was a two-week camp for kids and their sole objective was to get this up on the boards at the end of the two weeks.  And why not give them a helping hand and put this write-up to print, for the camp, for the kids, and for this type of production.

Okay, so it was not Annie the musical in its three hour entirely.  Annie Junior was a little over one hour long but there is a lot to be said the heart these actors put into this production and giving it their all in 11 musicals numbers.  

My girls and I loved it for various reasons.  And as I looked around the performers were playing to packed houses for two performances. (about two hundred people)

The leads were miked.  (Boy, everyone needs a mic these days.) But, they were all very capable of using their voices and projecting to the end of the sanctuary.

In this version of the musical Annie (Bailey Clark) is a little tough orphan who believes her mother and father are alive. She tries to run away but is stopped by Miss Hannigan (Sarah Moss) before she is able to make her escape.  But that doesn’t stop Annie from trying again, this time through a trashcan.

Oliver Warbucks (Gabe Danko), a very rich bachelor, wants to have an orphan over for the Thanksgiving holidays and sends his secretary Grace Ferrell (Claire Skelley) to find one.

Grace Ferrell approaches Miss Hannigan and suggests she want Annie to come and stay with them. Miss Hannigan, who has just chewed out Annie on her return, tries to talk Miss Farrell out of it but relents and hands over Annie to stay with Oliver Warbucks, his secretary, and his maids (Sara Paris, Lulu Trevino, Serafina Trevino, Katie Garner, Gabby Schwartz, and Gabby Fuentes-Daley.)

Warbucks is shocked.  He says he wanted a boy.  Grace tells him that he requested "an orphan"and that's what she has done.  But Warbucks falls in love with Annie nevertheless.  And at the end of the two week period he wants to adopt her.  Annie tells him that she has parents, she just can’t find them.

Warbucks, slightly heartbroken, tells Annie he will use his wealth to find them and puts out an announcement on the radio for a fifty thousand dollar reward to the parents that can rightfully claim her.

That’s where the sinister Rooster Hannigan (Simon Johnson), Miss Hannigan’s brother, and his wife Lily (Lara Gabrich/Gabriella Cornejo) make up a scheme to get Annie and the fifty thousand dollars.  The three are very sinister.

Can anyone think of anything worse than a child without parents?  It is such a heartbreaking thing to try to understand.  And when the child believes his or hers parents are still alive,  and then desperately searches for them,  it adds an sad element to an already tortured soul.

Bailey Clark held her own as Annie.  Gabe Danko as Oliver Warbucks has a very nice voice and did a nice job.  Sarah Moss had a very fine character as Miss Hannigan, wonderfully over the top and funny. Claire Skelley as Grace Ferrell was very graceful and funny.  Simon Johnson as Rooster Hannigan was a total ham and very comical. Also, I did notice one orphan, Molly played by Grace Basom who seemed to have a fine handle on her craft and had a very nice manner in her character.  She certainly seemed well above her years in spirit and in the details of her craft.  It was a very nice job!

Tiny Luke Basom was wheeled in and played Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The audience got a kick out of this. Bridget Padilla did a nice job as Sandy the whimpering dog.  

Also, other member of the supporting cast contributed to this very fine production they are: Hannah Beighey, Violet Comer, Annie Jewel Foxworth, Hannah Gamble, Natalie Glassman, Shavit Melamed, Evalie Rehor, Kayla Walden, Merrick Padilla, Isabel Cortes, Bram & Paul Skelley, Luke Basom, Lara Gabritch, Gabriella Cornejo, Allie Sisk, John Maines, Georgia Wehbi.  

There were a lot of fine touches in Marina Tidwell direction of this musical.  I can’t help but have a lot of admiration for someone who can wrangle so many kids and do a very nice job in so little time. 

Choreography was by Kelsey Harrold that presented N.Y.C was cleverly done.  The additional crew was Madeleine Krueger, Skylar Lima, Mariko Rooks, Thomas and Robert Tidwell, Grace Elliott, Ken Smith, Lisa Skelley and Joanie Maines.  

This is the seventh year of the Musical Theatre Camps at Grace Lutheran Church and the purpose of the Ministry is to offer a healthy venue in support of performers, nurture young talent, and outreach to the community with wholesome entertainment. 

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