Think Annie is just for kids, do you? Then you might be surprised to know that the 1977 Tony-winning musical has a dark side, which is never more apparent than in this sterling-silver revival from director James Lapine (Sunday in the Park with George). Don’t worry, it isn’t a radically revised take on the rags-to-riches tale of Little Orphan Annie; this solidly entertaining show remains as good a one to take children to as it was 35 years ago. But even as it glows with warmth and goodwill, it’s also a stark reminder of how dark New York City could be in 1933—especially for orphans and stray dogs like Sandy.
Thomas Meehan’s book follows the plight of the popular redheaded girl (played by an extraordinarily charming Lilla Crawford) from the cruel care of orphanage proprietor Miss Hannigan (Katie Finneran) to a lush life with billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Australian baritone Anthony Warlow, making an impressive Broadway debut) as the U.S. is mired in the Great Depression. Saying that a revived play feels especially timely to the current political or social climate has practically become a cliche, but change 1933 to 2012, the names of FDR and Herbert Hoover to Obama and Bush, and you have nearly the same scenario.
Like Harold Gray’s newspaper comic strip, Annie isn’t afraid to get political. It may be a family musical, but this is no play-it-safe Disney extravaganza. Besides buoyant, inspiring ditties such as “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and “Tomorrow,” the song that’s come to define the show and its titular character, composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Martin Charnin’s score also includes the biting “We’d Like to Thank You,” an ode to Hoover sung by homeless New Yorkers.
But Lapine has the sense and skill to keep everything in proportion, even the comic high jinks of Miss Hannigan, which could overwhelm the central plot. Annie never gets dour and never ceases to be fun, especially when the music is playing and the characters—everyone from orphans to FDR—are singing and dancing. From the audience, there’s nary a doubt that good will triumph in the end, but that doesn’t make Annie’s heartfelt, hope-filled journey any less touching.
By Diane Snyder
Visit the Site
Lilla Crawford, Katie Finneran, Anthony Warlow, Brynn O’Malley, Clarke Thorell, J. Elaine Marcos, Madi Rae DiPietro, Georgi James, Junah Jang, Tyrah Skye Odoms, Taylor Richardson, Emily Rosenfeld, Jaidyn Young
Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 10/3/2012
1564 Broadway (at 47th Street)
New York, NY 10036