For openers, the scruffy little Depression-era orphans in the revival of the classic musical “Annie” steal your heart away.
One expects children in these roles to
be cute and emotionally endearing, but director Jeff Croff (ably
assisted by choreographer Elizabeth Todd) has additionally conjured up
a high level of professionalism. Not to mention impressive stage
presence on the part of two separate children’s ensembles.
Adding to that powerful choir of tiny dancers is the
soaring and powerful individual singing voice of Brianna Rucinski in
the title role of Annie. By the end of the opening song and dance
number much of the entire Riverwalk audience is completely captivated.
Exquisitely careful costuming by Laura Croff Wheaton,
especially of the children, adds veracity and weight to the production.
When various adult actors begin to appear on stage, including a cast of
local community theater veterans, one realizes this is going to be an
evening of exceptional theater.
The diminutive Isabella Grace Olivo plays the role of
Molly, leader of the six orphans, who literally steals the show while
belting out the signature song, “It’s a Hard Knock Life” with powerful
The core group is aided by an 18-member back-up chorus, featuring every young performer who auditioned for the play.
Leading the pack of the cast of 20 some adults is Angela Dill, playing the nefarious Miss
Hannigan, sole proprietor of the orphanage. Dill brings a stiff-backed,
spastic intensity to her performance. She is magnificent.
Dill is joined on stage by Joe Quick,
playing her brother Rooster Hannigan, and by Veronica Diebold as his
girlfriend Lily St Regis. Together this hapless trio schemes to deny
the rich and powerful Daddy Warbucks his desire to adopt the little
orphan Annie. Choreography is complex as the three dance-masters act
out their get rich quick fantasy with great stage presence.
Warbucks, a cutthroat billionaire businessman
who has lived his life to make money, has come to realize being super
rich is no fun unless you have someone to share it with. Robin Harris
plays this ponderous robber-baron with a heart of gold and gradually
displays Warbucks’ soft side in quite a charming manner.
One does not see “Annie” seeking to gain new deep, pithy political insights. Yet the political polarities of the past 50 years are all there to be seen. Are we a nation of rich versus poor or are we all in this together?
“Annie” reminds us, through the softening medium of song
and dance, how bad an economic recession can be for many people and,
paradoxically, how much prosperity some others have despite difficult
Riverwalk Theatre. Sept. 15-18. Saturday, Sept 17th there will be a 2:00pm matinee as well as a 8:00pm performance.
Thursday: 7 p.m.
Friday: 8 p.m.
Saturday: 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday: 2 p.m.