Annie returns to the Westchester Broadway Theatre stage as it’s 201st production. The first time it graced the WBT stage was in 1983, and on opening night Margaret Hosier, who played Annie in that production, was in the audience for the celebrations. The director of the current production, Mary Jane Houdina, was the dance captain and assistant to choreographer Peter Gennaro on the original Broadway production.
This production of Annie has a strong connection to the show’s past and focuses on the human connections between the characters. The director tells public relations director Pia Haas: “You have to play all these characters are very real. There’s a tendency to think comic strip but it’s not.” This realness shows in many of characters throughout the show.
The young girls in the orphanage are spunky with wonderful voices and timing. The girls are played on alternating nights by Haylie Shea Christiano, Molly Lyons, Tahlia Ellie, Nora Kennedy, Maureen Henshaw, Lauren Sun, Ruby Griffin, Lucy Neureuther, Anika Bobra, Sasha Murray, Ella Stanley, and Gabriella Uhl.
Peyton Ella, who plays the title role, has an incredibly strong voice. By the end of “Maybe,” the entire audience was already hooked and waiting to hear more. She shows the backbone that Annie has, and how much she cares for the other girls at the orphanage, acting as a surrogate mother to them. A role she is thrust into because of the cruelty and negligence of Miss Hannigan, played by Susann Fletcher.
Robert Abdoo, Helly Black, Joseph Cullinane, Jesse Lynn Harte, Carl Hulden, Ryan Alexander Jacobs, Kelsey Self, Rochelle Smith, Roger Preston Smith, and Billy Clark Taylor make up the residents of the Hoovervilles, the police, the NYC residents, and the Warbucks staff. Each is given their moment to shine in the show, as they switch between their characters. Jesse Lynn Harte stands out in “NYC” as ‘A Star to Be,’ her voice powerful as it rings throughout the theater.
Rescuing Annie from the orphanage is Grace Farrell, played by Celeste Hudson. Hudson is poised on stage, possessing a quiet but intimidating presence. She brings Annie to the home of billionaire Oliver Warbucks, played by Michael DeVries. He plays a Warbucks that is clearly a cut-throat businessman, which makes it even more beautiful when he softens with Annie.
Adam Roberts plays a slick Rooster Hannigan aside Aubrey Sinn as Lily St. Regis. The two slide onto the stage and grab attention with Susann Fletcher in the song “Easy Street.”
Musical Director Bill Stanley leads the orchestra, comprised of Jason Ingram, Brian Ughl, David Dunaway, James Mack, and John Bowen (his Assistant Musical Director). The costumes, coordinated by Heather Carey, were appropriate, and with small details that bring the image of the characters together. Andrew Gmoser changes the tones wonderfully with his lighting design, in conjunction with set designers Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. The sound, designed by Mark Zuckerman is beautifully done.
Last, but certainly not least, is Sandy, played by Sunny. Sunny is a seven-year-old terrier mix who was rescued and trained by Bill Berloni. Sunny was adopted for the 2012 Broadway revival the day before she was to be put down. The NBC special, Annie’s Search for Sandy centers around her.
Annie runs through September 10th at the Westchester Broadway Theatre at One Broadway Plaza in Elmsford NY, 10523. http://www.broadwaytheatre.com/
The theatre is also hosting a Pet Adoption Day on Saturday, July 22nd from 10:30amto 4:30 pm in conjunction with: Paws Crossed Animal Rescue, ASPCA of Westchester, Posh Pets Rescue and is sponsored in part by Pet Smart.