‘Annie’ at McLean Theatre Company by Karim Doumar

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS

Annie fully dresses audience with a smile

Daddy Warbucks (Jack Posey) exclaims to Annie (Nancy Pruett): "I Don't Need Anything but You!" Photo courtesy of McLean Theatre Company.
Daddy Warbucks (Jack Posey) exclaims to Annie (Nancy Pruett): “I Don’t Need Anything but You!” Photo courtesy of McLean Theatre Company.

The McLean Theatre Company’s production of Annie, directed by Amy Poe is one worth remembering. With music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan, this Tony Award-winning musical follows the story of an orphan named Annie (Senior Nancy Pruett) who goes from living in an orphanage run by the drunk and jealous Miss Hannigan (Junior Rachel Lawhead) to the inviting home of billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Sophomore Jack Posey), all while displaying an optimism that is as important today as it was in 1933, when the musical takes place.

Pruett took to the stage as Annie and successfully captivated the audience with her enthusiastic performance. In her solos “Maybe” and “Tomorrow,” she truly sounded like the incredibly talented eleven year-old that she was playing.

Lawhead perfectly captured the drunk and horrible nature of Miss Hannigan. Her raspy voice and wonderful New York accent exuded her horrible nature and made her performance the funniest of the musical.  Often taking the stage sporting an ugly bright blue robe and disastrous bedhead, her costume (created by costume designers Gillian Wright and Emma Paquette) displayed perfectly what one would expect of the mean-spirited, lonely lush. Lawhead’s performed her signature number, “Little Girls” with a drunken enthusiasm that, coupled with her sandpaper-like voice, left the audience laughing. Furthermore, Lawhead’s execution of the song “Easy Street,” sung with Will Stockton and Abby Huston, who played Rooster, Hannigan’s slimy, conniving brother, and Lily St. Regis, his promiscuous girlfriend, was maniacally energetic and fun.

Miss Hannigan (Rachel Lawhead) bemoans her fate. Photo courtesy of McLean Theatre Company.
Miss Hannigan (Rachel Lawhead) bemoans her fate. Photo courtesy of McLean Theatre Company.

Posey, who shaved his head for his performance as Oliver Warbucks, sang with a voice worthy of being the male lead.  Although his performance of the musical number Something Was Missing was wonderful, he and Pruett (Annie) lacked chemistry and, therefore, his love for Annie and his joy at having adopted her were unconvincing. Additionally, I wish director Amy Poe had had Posey better display the contrast between the ruthless business man that Warbucks is when he first meets Annie and the loving father figure he becomes once he adopts her.  Warbucks’ realization that his love for Annie is more important than money is one of the key messages of the play and it’s disappointing that Poe did not further emphasize its importance.

Sophomore Nicole Sheehen played Grace Farrell, the assistant to Oliver Warbucks.  Sheehen’s wonderful voice was heard in the numbers “N.Y.C” and “Annie” among others. Her voice displayed great range and resonance and, hopefully, we will hear it often in future productions.

Senior Carla Calderon played the Star-To-Be who was featured in the musical number N.Y.C.”  Her short but dazzling appearance in the musical was marked by a simply superb voice which rose above all others in the production.

Senior Taj Rauch played charismatic radio host Bert Healy so well that he may have a future in 1930’s radio. His animated and lively performance was highlighted by his spirited singing of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.”   

L to R: Grace Farrell (Nicole Sheehan), Daddy Warbucks (Jack Posey), Annie (Nancy Pruett), Mrs. Hannigan (Rachel Lawhead), Rooster (Thomas Kelty), and Lily St. Regis (Abby Huston).. Photo by Karen Perry.
L to R: Grace Farrell (Nicole Sheehan), Daddy Warbucks (Jack Posey), Annie (Nancy Pruett), Mrs. Hannigan (Rachel Lawhead), Rooster (Thomas Kelty), and Lily St. Regis (Abby Huston).. Photo by Karen Perry.

Set Designers Ben French and Marielle Burt displayed creativity in both the backdrop and the foreground setting. They used six colossal rotating square columns that were painted such that the backdrop could be changed from the New York City skyline view from the orphanage to the patriotic flags of the white house simply by turning the columns. The simplicity of the backdrop was mirrored by the simplicity of the sets which the incognito running crew could efficiently change from a brown-walled hapless orphanage to the extravagant white-walled mansion of Oliver Warbucks.  However, the walls of Warbucks’ mansion were so white and consequently reflective of light that aspects of the foreground often became lost in the background.

The orchestra’s fine musicians, conducted by Walter “Bobby” McCoy, did a great job of playing the well-known, upbeat score and kept the audience captivated with the jubilant music even as the running crews changed the set.

Costume Designers Gillian Write and Emma Paquette brought the 1930s to life.  The contrast between the poverty of the 1930’s Hooverville, the wealth of Warbucks’ mansion, and the class and importance of the White House was best represented through these costumes. This contrast was highlighted in the Gatsby-like outfits of Grace Farrell (Sheehen), Warbucks’ assistant, and the tattered, un-matching outfits of the Orphan girls.

The orphans. Photo courtesy of McLean Theatre Company.
The orphans. Photo courtesy of McLean Theatre Company.

Annie sold out each of its evening performances. This was well-deserved as the cast and crew did wonderful work which confirmed and strengthened the McLean Theatre Company’s reputation as a school theater program that continually produces professional-like productions.

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes. plus an intermission.

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Annie played from November 29-December 7, 2013 at McLean High School Theatre Company performing at McLean High School-1633 Davidson Road, in McLean, VA. Annie has closed.