Annie is one of those shows that I grew up seeing in the movies and listening to the cast recording. This show that takes me back to being a child, and it is also a show that is overflowing with positivity. Annie is also a show that is perfect for the holiday season because it is a delight for people of all ages, and no matter if it is the first time someone is seeing the show or it is someone’s fiftieth time everyone will find something to enjoy. The production of Annie at Paper Mill Playhouse, under the direction of Mark S. Hoebee, not only has a remarkable cast and stunning sets, but the show is infused holiday spirit wherever it is possible. The show is a pure joy onstage, and it is a wonderful treat for the holiday season.
Annie is based on the popular Harold Grey comic strip, Little Orphan Annie with a book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin. The original production of Annie opened in 1977, and ran until 1983. The show starred Andrea McArdle, Reid Shelton and Dorothy Loudon. It was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, and won seven, including Best Musical and Dorothy Loudon won for Best Actress in a Musical. The musical tells the story of an orphan, Annie, who holds onto [the] hope that one day her parents will come back for her. The billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, decides he wants to have an orphan stay with him during the holiday season, and Annie is the orphan that is chosen. Warbucks and Annie develop a bond with each other, and they improve each other’s lives in the best way possible.
Two young actors play the role of Annie, Cassidy Pry and Peyton Ella. The night I was in attendance Cassidy Pry played the role, and she was charming. Pry brings a boldness and self-assurance to Annie that I enjoyed. She brought out the idea that even in dark times there is always hope to hang onto. Her rendition of “Tomorrow” was strong. The young actors who play the orphans also need mentioning. Their performance in “A Hard Knock Life” was energetic, and Tessa Noelle Frascogna who plays Molly is spunky. Beth Level portrays Miss Hannigan, the person in charge of the orphans at the orphanage. Level brilliantly portrays this over-the-top character, and she is wonderful as the comedic villain. Her rendition of “Little Girls” is well done, and the rendition, of “Easy Street,” performed by Level, Cooper Grodin (Rooster) and Kim Sava (Lily) is wonderfully choreographed as well as one of the strongest songs in the production. Christopher Sieber plays Oliver Warbucks, and he is phenomenal. The all-business brashness Sieber portrays when he first enters the stage and the way this evolves by the way Annie warms his heart is wonderful to watch onstage. In addition, his songs, “NYC” and “I Don’t Need Anything But You” are two of my favorite numbers in the production. Playing Grace Farrell, Oliver Warbucks assistant is Erin Mackey. Mackey is elegant in this role and she has great chemistry with Pry and Sieber. In addition, she is wonderful in the song “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here.”
The artistic team also needed mentioning for this marvelous production. The set is infused with holiday cheer anywhere they see fit. The original scenic design is by Beowulf Boritt and the scenic coordination is by Jared Rutherford. Charlie Morrison is the Lighting Designer and Randy Hansen is the Sound Designer. The original costume design was by Suzy Benzinger and the costume design for the production at Paper Mill Playhouse is by Leon Dobkowski. Joann M. Hunter is the choreographer. In addition, music supervision and direction is by Jeffrey Saver.
Annie runs at Paper Mill Playhouse through December 31, 2017. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.papermill.org or call the box office at 973-376-4343.
Final Thought: The production of Annie at Paper Mill Playhouse is a delightful treat for the holiday season. The show is full of hope, incredible performances and infused with holiday cheer. If you have never seen the show or if you have seen it fifty times the production at Paper Mill Playhouse is well worth seeing and will infuse you with joy.
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.
Photo 1: Photo by Jerry Dalia; from left to right: Erin Mackey (Grace), Cassidy Pry (Annie) and Christopher Sieber (Warbucks).
Photo 2: Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade; from left to right: Michelle Henderson (Duffy), Tessa Noelle Frascogna (Molly), Cassidy Pry (Annie), Eve Johnson (Tessie) and Lauren Sun (July).
Photo 3: Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade; Beth Leavel (Miss Hannigan).
Photo 4: Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade; from left to right: Erin Mackey (Grace), Cassidy Pry (Annie), Christopher Sieber (Warbucks), Damien Brett and Stacey Todd Holt.
Cover Photo: Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade; The cast of Annie.