I saw Annie
this weekend at National Theater.
My strongest memory of the musical is actually the 1980s movie with Carol Burnett and Tim Currie, seen as a child and remembered as a child. So there was a lot about the actual musical that either I had forgotten or never knew. The depression politics were new, and I also didn't remember FDR being a part of things.
My runaway favorite character from this weekend's show was Miss Hannigan, played by Lynn Andrews. She played a frazzled, has-been (never-was?), depressed and drunken woman on the edge of a complete breakdown. Ms. Andrews' barely-sane presentation of the single manager of the orphanage was stellar, and put a lot of weight onto lines which otherwise would be throwaway fillers or shallow comedy. While she played a fat, bumbling, overbearing disciplinarian, she also had amazing singing and physical chops, bringing in two song-and-dance numbers without a dropped kick or a missed note. Her deep alto was also rather refreshing after New-York-nasal orphan kids singing.
Likewise, the estimable Grace Farrell was presented by a graceful
, elegant, and well-timed Chloe Tiso. The only time Ms. Tiso presented poorly was during her entrance for the curtain call, when she got backed into by one of the chorus members. For the entire run of the play, Ms. Tiso maintained a proud, warm, and purposeful presence every time she set foot on stage. One of her strongest aspects of character was how well she framed and emphasized the stoic and deliberately-awkward Oliver Warbucks - presented by Gilgamesh Taggett (I kid you not, that's his name
) - and brought nuance to both the character and their scenes together.
Heidi Grey did an ok job as Annie, but was nothing special to me. She overplayed the physical and underplayed the emotional until she was almost her cartoon character namesake. Her nasal, overdone NYC accent was jarring at times, especially when she was singing. She also was not helped by poor costuming decisions for the second half. Everything she wore was two inches too short in either the waste, the hemline, or both. Her iconic red and white dress at the end was far too small to the point that it was distracting me from her lines.
This was closing day of the performance. Everything ran incredibly smoothly. The orphan chorus girls nailed their numbers and hit their marks. The adult chorus members made their transitions from Hooverville destitutes to proud-and-cheerful domestic staff to FDR's brain trust with such smoothness that I doubt the children in the audience realized they were the all the same people.