The national tour of Annie had its Cincinnati opening last night at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. The iconic 11-year-old girl with bright red hair and the voice of an angel returns to the stage in this new production. Annie has been entertaining families for over 46 years.
While many are familiar with the three well known movie musical adaptations not many are aware that Annie begun her life as a comic book strip titled Little Orphan Annie from 1924. Created by Harold Grey, this comic book strip ran from 1924 to 2010 after being cancelled in June of that year.
With a book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Martin Charnin, Annie has become household name. You may not be familiar with the 1977 Tony award winning Broadway production but at some point, you’ve probably heard the chorus to “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life”.
This production is a fun watch. It’s evident that the kids on stage are having the time of their lives dancing and singing. Ellie Pulsifer (Annie) does a great job as the titular character. Her belt at the end of “Tomorrow” in act one is clear, vibrant, and full of life. I even shed a tear when Addison (Sandy) ran on stage during that scene.
Stefanie Londino (Miss Hannigan) makes her character uniquely her own. She is believable, funny, and campy to a T. Her “Little Girls” number left me smiling from ear to ear.
Julia Nicole Hunter’s (Grace Farrell) performance is a standout. She embodies “Grace” perfectly. From her singing right down to her movements on stage.
While it’s been 46 years since Annie first opened, many elements of the show remain relevant to this very day. In the top of act one, the audience is introduced to the Hoovervilleites of Hooverville – formerly wealthy individuals who lost their money during the great depression.
This number was cut from all three movie adaptions of the show, which I think does a disservice to Annie overall. Lyrically this song breaks down how many affluent Americans were used to a certain lifestyle that they wanted to maintain. After the depression hit, so did reality. People realized that the idea of “pulling yourself up by your boots strap” is, essentially, a myth.
The orchestra is a breath of fresh air and the overture at the very top of show is simply beautiful. In this current era of musical theatre, there is a lack of overtures. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, the overture typically operates as the orchestral introduction to a musical work. It helps in musically setting the tone. My hat goes off to the music director and the musicians who brought this iconic music to life.
This production features very strong direction by Jenn Thompson and choreography by Patricia Wilcox.
Annie is currently playing at the Aronoff Center for the Arts February 7th – 12th. Tickets can be purchased here.