Annie | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Annie 75Annie is a delightful holiday treat for the entire family—goosebumps and laughs guaranteed.

Annie 500

I admit it: I was nervous going into The Fabulous Fox Theatre’s showing of the revival of Annie, directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin. While I can belt out Charles Strouse’s and Charnin’s “Tomorrow” like, well, there is no tomorrow, I knew very little about the Tony Award-winning musical classic. However, the moment the giant childlike drawing of Annie and her dog Sandy faded to black; the rustling of orphans up past their bedtimes began; and the tune of “Maybe” sounded, I was completely captivated. It’s no wonder Little Orphan Annie has enthralled audiences of all ages since 1977—before that, as a comic.

Annie promises that there can be light even in the darkest times by showing the trials and tribulations of a red-headed, 11-year-old orphaned girl named Annie (Issie Swickle) in Depression Era New York, N.Y. Though casted-off in a squalid orphanage with just a locket and a note guaranteeing her parents’ return, Annie never lost hope year after year. A hard day’s work driven by the orphans’ abusive, drunkard of a caretaker Miss Hannigan (Lynn Andrews) compelled Annie to sneak away for another adventure. Upon a disappointing return, she hears that Oliver Warbucks (Gilgamesh Taggett), an influential billionaire, sent his assistant Grace Farrell (Ashley Edler) to pluck an orphan out of his or her misery to spend two weeks during the Christmas holidays at his mansion in upscale New York. Luck finds Annie. Quickly “Daddy” Warbucks and Annie become more to each other and when he wishes to adopt her, he instead provides the means to find her missing parents. From there, all scales of detective work, plotting, presidential meetings and commercials commence (in musical fashion, no less).

Through all the hustle and bustle that is New York on stage and a famous song list you’ll be humming for the rest of the night, you’ll be enthralled no matter what your age. Swickle could not have debuted more profoundly. She captures and expels the air of the little red head so believably one could imagine she was Annie in another life. With her opening number, “Maybe,” my jaw dropped and remained that way through each upcoming spectacular number. Every note was crystal clear, each word spoken with raw emotion and she skillfully interacted with the dog playing Sandy in a way I can’t seem to muster with my own two pups, let alone on stage. However, Swinkle was not the only twinkling star, in fact I can honestly say I couldn’t pinpoint a single actor that wasn’t on par with the other actors. Andrews excels as Miss Hannigan with a sarcastic, over the top—bordering on mad—attitude that particularly shows during a revealing “Little Girls” and through interactions with her con brother Rooster Hannigan (Garrett Deagon). Deagon flows seamlessly from a con to a “parent” with Lily (Lucy Werner). Taggett as Warbucks balances a dominating billionaire attitude with a developing fatherly love. Even the orphans and Warbucks’ staff stick out in their own ways despite always performing together.

Each facet of the production lived up to the quickly developed expectations with its cast. Every change was an astounding rotating display, without an area in eye’s sight left unimagined as the 1933 city. Backdrops were sky-high art pieces; props caught your attention for accuracy and detail; and the walls and large set pieces moved as fluidly as a well-rehearsed dance. Costumes were appropriately dirty, mangy, tacky, uniform and classy, completing the false reality like icing on a cake. And, as this is a musical, one cannot ignore all the work the actors put into choreography and song. Each routine, choreographed by Liza Gennaro, captured the feel of each moment superbly from a Stomp-esque version of “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” to an evil swing of “Easy Street,” to an intimate and required simplicity of “Something Was Missing.” The orchestra swelled and fluttered in a way that a C.D. just can’t convey. It was all there, tied up in a neat little Christmas bow.

Though there will soon be another fresh look at Annie starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx this December, this live revival is well worth the attention. The Fabulous Fox Theatre’s Annie is a delightful holiday treat for the entire family—goosebumps and laughs guaranteed. | Liz Edwards

Annie runs through Dec. 7, 2014 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. For more information, please visit http://www.fabulousfox.com.

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