Rosemary Laughlin/review | CUTC's 'Annie' a tail-wagging, toe-tapping good time

Rosemary Laughlin/review | CUTC's 'Annie' a tail-wagging, toe-tapping good time


We have another golden oldie! This one comes with a1977 Tony Award for Best Musical. The current performance by the Champaign Urbana Theater Company allows all ages to enjoy its music and local actors.As you read this, there is one performance left of "Annie." If your Sunday afternoon schedule is free, go and fill it with delight.

The choreography by Rebecca Nettl-Fiol assisted by Alexis Miller is smooth and charming. I felt myself swaying with the 15 orphans, who flow synchronously as they mime their problems and dreams. The lively girls who play them are clearly enjoying their control. The servants of Daddy Warbucks add the sophistication of domestic uniforms and implements of a wealthy household in several numbers.

The set created by scenic and lighting designers Molly Ilten-Fullan and Bob Weber (assisted by construction manager Jerry Myers) is striking. Wall-filling projections of New York City scenes provide impressive backdrops. The skyline and tenement neighborhood are familiar, but the underside of the 59th Street Bridge where homeless gather in a makeshift shanty town is powerful and emotional; colored fogs drift about. The interior of the Warbucks mansion is elegantly suggested with slender silver geometric shapes suspended from the ceiling against solid rosy light.

The best-known songs from the musical are "Maybe" and "Tomorrow." They are reprised in various combinations throughout; the latter works toward the end into the hopes of President Roosevelt and his Cabinet planning a New Deal.

The stand-out music number for me is "Easy Street," brassily sung and danced by the trio of Julia Megan Sullivan as Miss Hannigan, Grant Morenz as Rooster Hannigan and Zoe Dunn as Lily St. Regis. The horns of the orchestra give a distinctive bluesy-jazzy flair.

My other favorites are "It's the Hard Knock Life," "NYC," and "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile." Aaron Kaplan conducted a large pit orchestra that provided rich musical accompaniment despite high microphone volume that tended to blur the actors' dialogue.

Several actors are particularly notable to me. Julia Megan Sullivan makes a formidable Miss Hannigan, dropping her r's and adding rhythm consistently to create New York City working-class speech. She is nicely abetted on this score by her partners in crime, Grant Morenz and Zoe Dunn.

Michael Steen as Oliver Warbucks hauntingly sings "Something Was Missing" in his compelling tenor. Chrissy Mauck as his secretary Grace continues her intelligent managing of matters as she leads the cast in "I Don't Need Anything But You."

Noreen Adoni as the 11-year-old Annie proves she can belt songs in emotional style. She also proves an adept handler for Sandy the dog, who obeys perfectly and adds the sweetness of a wagging tail. Dog trainer Jodie Varner certainly knows dogs. Sandy looks to me like a Golden Lab or Retriever, sweet breeds to begin with. Director Stephen Fiol definitely had his wish fulfilled that Parasol as Sandy perform "doggone well."

Co-director Jaclyn Lowenstein expressed her wish in the program that children currently separated from their parents be re-united. She quoted "a brave 12-year-old girl on the news, saying, 'We are all human and deserve to be loved and cared for.'"

As introduction, "Annie" is fittingly dedicated by producer Todd Salen to Leonard Doyle, a beloved founding member of the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company, who passed away early in 2018.

Rosemary Laughlin is a writer and retired English teacher from University Laboratory High School.

Topics (1):Theater