Monday, February 9, 2015

Annie, Jr. Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin, Book by Thomas Meehan

Photos:  Andy Coon

By Joe Straw

The kids work hard while their cerebral mass tries to keep up.

They work to focus.  Small minds racing all over the place, hither and yon, but physically coming together as a cohesive whole for a common good, period.    

The small things usually done around Christmas and New Years are put on hold because they are in a musical and, of course, working hard to concentrate in tiny increments.   

Annie, Jr., well, she says it’s really Annie with some stuff left out – except the heart – and the lovely things – mostly all of the unexpected awe-inspiring intangibles.  

Bounce, bounce, flitter, bounce, and off she goes.    

Oh, they grow, on the nightly stage. Not taking a minute to think so.

(Okay, a slight exaggeration, but yesterday I was holding my daughter in my arms, crying at the loveliness of this tiny little bundle of joy.)

Yes, and now, after just crawling right out of our arms, they are up on center stage, performing, and screaming loud when it is all over, which has become a tradition of sorts at dee-Lightful, and hardly manageable for my sensitive ears. 

(“…And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – The End – from the album Abbey Road - The Beatles)

But, in the end, when the curtain closes and their little eyes get really big, it’s almost like Beatlemania all over again, or dee-Lightfulmania, signifying a right of passage, hands to little cheeks, and the screams do fly.  

Do they really have to scream?

dee-Lightful Productions presented Annie, Jr., Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin and Book by Thomas Meehan January 15-17, 2015 at the Robert Frost Auditorium in the Culver City High School, directed by Allegra Williams and Produced by Dolores Aguanno.

So the higgledy-piggledy thoughts flutter about their heads, hardly unable to control their limbs. But their physical lives, trained in this production, are their first point of entry into this world of art, in a manner of speaking. 

dee-Lightful teaches the actors the songs, the physical actions, and the necessary tasks to complete the show.  And the scattered minds that first enters the rehearsals, find time to focus, to move from one moment to the next before the rehearsals end and everyone flitters home.

There is a lot of talent here in Culver City, where kids work at their craft, making their objectives clear, their nuance subtle, (very subtle at times), all in the hopes of making their mark.   

The interesting thing is watching them work on voice, movement, and character – the sum of which features some very strong voices and accents – and a craft, because they take pride in their craft.  And on that proper observation, one has to take a deep breath and watch it all happen.   

dee-Lightful has a huge following. I was there to see the Subways Cast on Thursday evening and the Taxicabs Cast on Friday night along with 200 of my closest friends.

Each night got progressively better. And each cast had their own uniqueness.  The Taxicabs soared onto stage and never gave up, but it was a night fraught with minor mistakes, a flashlight left on stage, an apple tray left backstage, an imaginary bite of an invisible apple, an arm or a leg of a doll left downstage center for someone to pickup.  All minor but memorable mistakes that put a big smile on everyone’s face and a solid memorable stamp on the night.   

Mistakes happen all the time and everyone learns from their mistakes. Still, there were some terrific performance and moments that would lift you right out of your seat.

Allegra Williams, the director, did a fitting job of putting this all together. And with Ben Ross did some outstanding work on the choreography.  The servants number was excellent as well as the dance numbers with Warbucks and Annie.

With a cast of about 40 actors, there are tremendous amounts of people working behind the scenes to help in the production.  It is a community effort, a lot of hard work, and a boatload of people wrangling actors.

Aine Lee and Isabella Veale both gave pleasing performances as Annie and each had their vocal métiers. 

(But my younger daughter groused that one Annie had brown hair.  I mentioned Annie, in the newspapers, had black hair Monday through Friday and red hair only on the weekends. A little matter lost in its nuance.)  

Katelyn Coon as Miss Hannigan has a wonderful voice and Jessie Grimaldo gave a grand performance as Miss Hannigan as well, each creating a wonderfully functional and emotional life for the character.  

Max Lianos was Oliver Warbucks, a Republican with a serious purpose in mind.  Lianos gave Warbucks a lot of flair and the dance scene with Annie was a magnificent moment in the musical.  Merrick Padilla also played Oliver Warbucks and has a very strong stage presence especially as FDR.  Both gave Lt. Ward a very strong New York/Brooklyn accent.

Mirabel Armstrong did a great job as Grace Farrell and looked to be in the moment throughout.  And Samantha Spector gave Grace Farrell another type of grace and marvelous poise.

Lindsay Gross and Joe Call each played Rooster Hannigan the evil-minded brother to Miss Hannigan. Both were exceptional in the song “Easy Street”.

Both Jules Henderson and Charlotte Ceugniet played Lily St. Regis and each had their own version of the character and wasn’t that nice.  

Other members of the fantastic cast are as follows first by Character and then Subway Cast actor and Taxicabs Cast actor.

Molly – Ruby Addie – Elliana Lilling
Pepper – Socorro Park – Evyn Armstrong
Duffy – Renee Story – Uma Kolesnikow
Toughie – Martin Pentchev – Cosette Okker
April – Ava Allred – Maya Gonzalez
Kate – Izzy Kessner – Cate Schilling
Tessie – Mia Story – Camille Ceugniet
July – Cali Kimura – Brooke Rosenbloom
Drake – Ben Sanderson – Ian Warfield
Cecille – Elena Hilger – Emma Snyder
Annette – Bella Hilger – Samantha Spector
Mrs. Greer – Sophia Martin-Straw – Olivia Andrews
Mrs. Pugh – Jessie Grimaldo – Katelyn Coon
Featured Servant – Lindsay Gross – Lindsay Gross
Bundles McClosky – Joe Call – Sophia Martin-Straw
Appleseller – Arden Malsin – Taye Reiss
Dogcatcher – Aili Poinsett-Yoshida – Olivia Andrews
Sandy – Ayla Moses – Martin Pentchev
Lt. Ward – Merrick Padilla – Max Lianos
Star-To-Be – Charlotte Ceugniet – Socorro Park
Usherette – Jessie Grimaldo – Katelyn Coon
Radio Announcer – Mirabel Armstrong – Lindsay Gross
Burt Healy – Arden Malsin – Jules Henderson
President FD Roosevelt – Merrick Padilla – Max Lianos
Louis Howe – Ian Warfield – Ben Sanderson

dee-Lightful Production needs a home.  They also need updated sound equipment to smooth the edges when the sound doesn’t work as it should. dee-Lightful works in collaboration with Culver City Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Service and is a service we desperately need for the sake of our community.

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