Annie | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Audience members will walk away smiling after they receive a mood-lifting sprinkling of holiday spirit.

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If nothing else, this production of Annie undoubtedly accomplishes one thing: Audience members will walk away smiling after they receive a mood-lifting sprinkling of holiday spirit. Red-headed, 11-year-old orphan Annie has been a source of optimism since she was introduced as a comic strip character in the 1920s, long before her story was adapted for the stage and screen. And that’s part of what makes her character so special; her story still speaks to the hearts of all who listen. She’s a little girl who has complete faith that she will find love and light in the darkness, and who out there doesn’t want to join her in believing that?!

For those of you who will be seeing this show for the first time, allow me to share a little bit background. Annie (Tori Bates) was abandoned by her parents at a New York orphanage with nothing but a sweet note and a locket to remember them by. Amazingly, her lively spirit isn’t broken by her cruel, poor excuse of a caretaker, Miss Hannigan (Erin Fish), and she has a great camaraderie with the other girls at the orphanage. However, that’s not to say she has any intention of sticking around. Lucky for her, she happens to be at the right place at the right time when Grace Farrell (Casey Prins), assistant to the billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Gilgamesh Taggett), walks into the orphanage to announce that Warbucks has decided to host an orphan over the course of the approaching holiday season. Circumstances soon become complicated in ways none of the characters could have expected.

Although this particular production isn’t without its weaknesses, you’ll find that charisma is never in short supply among this cast. I was particularly fond of Prins’ performance as Grace. She may have been playing Warbucks’ assistant, but she certainly wasn’t acting or singing in anyone’s shadow, and her stage presence as well as her commitment to her character were almost unmatched. Tagget makes a wonderful Warbucks; however, he has a bit of an advantage having toured as the character for three years now. Those of you who caught Mamma Mia in 2015 will immediately recognize the actress playing mean Miss Hannigan as the same talented performer who wowed as Donna less than a year ago. Her Hannigan mannerisms are especially worthy of applause.

Of course, by this point on the praise train, you’re probably wondering, “But what about Annie?!” As you’ll see (because I just KNOW you wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see this show for yourself…), Bates has Annie’s personality down pat. She’s a spunky ray of sunshine with cute as a button comedic timing. She’s one of the several performers of this 25-member company who is making her national tour debut, and I suspect she’ll only shine more in this role with time! Bates shares the stage with a sensational ensemble of young girls, and their performance of the hit “It’s the Hard Knock Life” is one of the show’s most memorable moments.

Last but not least, there’s one more star that can’t go without mention and that special someone is the stray dog Annie falls in love with, Sandy. Like many audience members, I squealed with delight every time this sweet, smiling dog took to the stage. (Fun fact: The dog cast as Sandy for the original 1977 production was known to never miss a performance, hence being named the “longest running dog on Broadway.”)

If you don’t already have tickets to this show and my review up to this point hasn’t persuaded you, perhaps this last point will do trick: Experiencing The Fabulous Fox Theatre when its adorned in its holiday attire is one of the most spectacular sights you’ll see this season. | Megan Washausen

Annie runs through December 4. For ticket information, visit http://www.fabulousfox.com/.

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