‘Annie’ at Port Tobacco Players

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Annie is based on the comic strip by Harold Gray about Little Orphan Annie. Her optimism shines through, even in the darkness that encompasses the 1930’s, which the musical is set in. Annie won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 1977, and has become so famous, that there is another film adaptation about to be released. Annie has a Book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Martin Charnin.

 Hannigan explaining her use of 'medicine.' Photo by Laurie Mudd.
Hannigan  (Amy Cooksey) explaining her use of ‘medicine.’ Photo by Laurie Mudd.

Port Tobacco Players’ production of Annie is stellar! Madelyn Mudd, who portrayed the title character, brought such life and exuberance to her role that I had a hard time remembering her unfortunate circumstance of being an orphan. Lucy Mudd was absolutely delightful in her portrayal of Molly. In fact, all of the orphans were phenomenal in that they each stood out. Each girl was successful in highlighting the traits of her individual character. Also, the orphans were extremely energetic in their performance of “It’s the Hard Knock Life”  and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.”

Amy Cooksey played a sarcastically superb Miss Hannigan. Her calm, drunken portrayal of the role was unconventional and that was very refreshing! Her acting and vocal abilities were shown in her twisted renditions of “Little Girls” and “Easy Street.” Joining her sadistic triangle were the wonderful duo of Patrick Wathen, who played the smooth, conniving Rooster, and Aimee Bonnet, who played the air-headed, comical Lily St. Regis. The three had magnificent chemistry. Patrick Wathen and Aimee Bonnet also displayed impeccable dance abilities in their performance of “Easy Street.”

 Annie, Sandy, Warbucks, and Grace. Photo by Laurie Mudd.
Annie ( Madelyn Mudd), Sandy (Sunny Fernandes), Oliver Warbucks (Rick Wathen), and Grace (Annabelle Lowe). Photo by Laurie Mudd.

The entire ensemble showed incredible dance ability throughout the show, dancing to numbers that were beautifully choreographed by the talented Ben Simpson. The ensemble showed that they could do more than just dance, though. Everyone had a unique, interesting, and wacky character. Standouts among the ensemble included Emmeline Jones, Austin Kuhn, Carlton Silvestro, Trey Lockhart, Desiree Proffit, and Keith Linville.

The whole cast was emotionally captivating, including Rick Wathen, who gave a marvelous performance as Oliver Warbucks. His transition from stern businessman to loving father was splendid! His vocals in “NYC” and “Something Was Missing’ were glorious.

Annabelle Lowe, who portrayed Warbucks’ assistant, Grace Farrell, had an outstanding performance as well! Her impressive acting, coupled with her spectacular voice, especially in “Gonna Like It Here” and “Won’t Be An Orphan For Long.” were a breath of fresh air from the moment she entered the stage.

Another unforgettable performance was that of Sunny Fernandes, who played Sandy. The jubilant Labradoodle was well- behaved and was remarkably obedient, performing tricks right on cue. Sunny truly stole my heart when she playfully rolled on her back during Madelyn’s memorable performance of “Tomorrow” and licked her face at the end of the song!

Much more than just acting goes into such a breathtaking show. Tessa Silvestro did a sublime job as director, blocking the show in such a way that the entire audience was able to stay immersed in the brilliant performances taking place!

Shemika Berry and Jenn Branham really out did themselves with hair and makeup, as exhibited through Mrs. Hannigan’s period wig and Grace Farrell’s stunning hairstyle. Quentin Nash Sagers and Port Tobacco Players’  costume guild, demonstrated fantastic attention to detail, creating easily over eighty unique, dazzling, and exquisite costumes!

Kim Moore Bessler’s props added yet another level of legitimacy to this period piece. It would be remiss of me not to mention FDR’s authentic wheelchair and the Crosley antique styled radio. Sound Designer James Watson, did a stupendous job of creating a genuine 1930’s sound for the radio. Tessa Silvestro and Ryan Mudd showcased their incredible creativity in the extravagance of Warbucks’ mansion! Tommy Scott created masterful lighting designs that truly enhanced the show, from the wash of blue that opens the show to create that early morning feel, to the striking lights in Warbucks’ estate!

"It's the Hard Knock Life." Photo by Laurie Mudd.
“It’s the Hard Knock Life.” Photo by Laurie Mudd.

What is a musical without a good orchestra? Under the direction of William Derr, the orchestra really helped to keep the show on track. Their pristine sound added a cheerful element to the show that kept my toes tapping, even during set changes!

All in all, Port Tobacco Players’ Annie this was a piece de resistance, full of stars who shined brighter than “the top of the Chrysler building!” Annie is a “New Deal for Christmas” that you will not want to miss, but please do not wait until “Tomorrow” to get your tickets because they are going fast. It will be a “Hard Knock Life” for you if you wait because Annie is having the “Same Effect on Everyone.”

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Annie plays through December 21, 2014 at the Port Tobacco Players -508 Charles Street, in La Plata, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 932-6819, or purchase them online.