Review by Tulis McCall
NYC could use a little TLC and this show fits that bill perfectly. It satisfies that little voice that says 987 Fifth Avenue, if it existed, would be a perfect place to live, and that hot and cold running servants who sing would be a great situation no matter how you slice it. Toss in the date, 1933, when food was real, plastic had not been invented, limos were huge, fur was fashionable, and – oh yeah - a lot of people had a lot of nothin’ to share with one another.
PLUS you get your own dog.
In the New York City Municipal Orphanage, Annie (Lilla Crawford) lives with a bunch of other girls under the hairy eyeball of Miss Hannigan (Katie Finneran) who is practically allergic to the little brats. They are good for nothing except an income, which in 1933 was not something to sneeze at. Finneran’s Hannigan is loose, a little looney, boozie and seriously funny. The orphans, led by the bold little elf Molly (Emily Rosenfeld) would love to run away, but where to? Even Annie’s one attempt is foiled by the coppers. It ain’t safe out there on the streets.
But but but!!! One magic day an emissary, Miss Grace Farrell (Brynn O’Malley) arrives with the news that a lucky child is to be plucked from the orphanage for a two week Lifestyle Makeover. It is Christmas, and Oliver Warbucks (Anthony Warlow) wants to bestow a little gelt onto someone who is in need - like an orphan. Annie, in the office for a dressing down by Miss Hannigan is chosen by default. Soon she is ensconced in the Warbucks Manse, and with her blunt but cute approach to life, she worms her way into the hearts of everyone working at the mansion as well as the man himself. She even has the chance to infiltrate Roosevelt’s Cabinet meeting and spread a little sunshine.
That would be Annie’s middle name: sunshine - a little Pollyanna, a little Nancy from Oliver, a little hopeful, very practical. A bit of sass. A backbone of steel. Annie is what is best about us all, and Crawford has a set of pipes that reach all the way to the top row of the balcony. Actually everyone does. This is a musical that has a light touch and grand score that is worthy of Radio City at Christmas. The story is positively Dickensian, with the plots laid out like the Yellow Brick Road. There is nothing new or surprising. It is simply a sweet, sweet show.
Annie doesn’t try to be anything it is not. The voices are true – with a special nod to Warlow’s baritone – and the characters are clear. There are good characters, bad characters (Clarke Thorell as Rooster Hannigan is fantastic) and lost characters. The good are rewarded, the bad carted off to the clink, and the lost dogs are found. The chaos of the world is addressed and solutions triumph. Talk about bi-partisan miracles!
Consider the past year: the presidential slugfest that dragged us through more mud than we thought possible; a con-artist candidate who nearly figured out how to fool most of the people all of the time; two storms that were supposed to come once every hundred years; a city nearly brought to its knees because of a one-two punch of wind and water. We New Yorkers tend to carry on without stopping in the face of trauma. It’s only when we come up against a story that asks to hold us in its arms and entertain us that we realize how much we needed a hug.
You will get a little faklempt at Annie. But don’t worry – so will everyone around you. Besides, you’ll be sitting in the dark, so no one will rag on you. Grab a kid if you need to have an excuse, and head on over. By the time you get there Crawford will be over her jitters and Sandy the dog will have the routine down pat. A good time will be had by all.
"A serviceable revival."
Ben Brantley for NY Times
"Enjoyable new production."
Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News
"There’s a lot to love in this production."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"There’s so much that’s right about director James Lapine’s joyous revival."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"A crisp, colorful, shiny-bright production loaded with theatrical energy."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"An agreeable entertainment for youngsters."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"It’s cute without being cutesy and sweet without being saccharine. ... a winning presentation of an unapologetically sentimental show."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"A handsome if somewhat checkered new production that's nevertheless superior to the redheaded orphan's previous two visits to Gotham. "
Steven Suskin for Variety