This review of Annie at The Gallery Players was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Written by Thomas Meehan
Music by Martin Charnin
Director: Mark Harborth
Director of Production: Scott Andrew Cally
Set Design: Joshua Barilla
Lighting Design: Christopher Chambers
Choreographer: Emily Clark
Tap Sequence Choreographer: Robin Rivers Friday
Costume Design: Barbara Erin Delo
Music Director: Paul Helm
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Brooklyn, New York 11215
The Gallery Players' production of Annie was simply marvelous. Anchored by a strong cast, this classic story of the hard-knock orphan who miraculously becomes the adopted daughter of Oliver Warbucks, melted the hardest hearts while remaining accessible to the plethora of children in the audience. Of all the actors, the most important were the orphans and these kids were great. This started the show off on a strong note and as each stage change showcased the staff's attention to detail, the audience could only be more impressed by this touching tale of fortune favoring the luckless.
Entrenched in the American canon, Annie became a musical in 1976 and ran for nearly six years on Broadway starting in 1977. The trio of Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin based the original musical on a comic strip that debuted on August 5, 1924, in the New York Daily News. This, in turn, was based off a 1885 poem written by the American writer James Whitcomb Riley. Having entertained audiences around the world in various forms for almost a century and a half, the musical adaptation of Annie's story was no different and has seen a myriad of revivals, productions, and tours worldwide over the past 40 years. You can bet your bottom dollar that The Gallery Players gave Annie its due. A number of the actors and actresses truly impressed.
Among the highlights were the popular songs sung by Annie in the musical. The young Emma Grace Berardelli did a great job in the lead role, especially when she sang "It's A Hard Knock Life" and "Tomorrow." I still have the tunes in my head, and her positive attitude and outlook on life should be adopted by all (not just FDR and his senior cabinet.) Berardelli's ability and stage presence were remarkable alongside talented acting veterans many years her senior. This hard work and dedication will pay off for years to come.
One of the best performances amidst the spotlight on Annie was by Luisa Boyaggi as Miss Hannigan. Convincing as a drunk and frustrated orphan matron, she brought out the best in her character in solo songs and with Alex Domini as Rooster Hannigan, her brother, in a solid "Easy Street." Her ability to scold, wince, yell, and throw her arms up in surrender was a testament to the complexity of the role. She made the character stand out as a complex, multi-dimensional woman with desires and fears as she waited wistfully beside the radio for a wanting bachelor while tormenting and being tormented by the girls in her care.
Heather Gault as Grace Farrell also impressed me. She looked the part perfectly as Oliver Warbuck's personal assistant becoming ally and confidant to the young Annie while maintaining posture and presence in both the orphanage and beside Mr. Warbucks. She had a knack for delivering her lines in such a way that perfectly communicated underlying meanings which mark classic plays like Annie as some of the best.
I would recommend Annie to anyone getting to know American culture as well as families. This absorbing story is both fluid and dynamic, and The Gallery Players did more than a solid job. The ensemble of actors even pulled off a notable dance number (thanks to Choreographer Robin Rivers Friday) that brought me back to videos of Fred Astaire at the 1970s Oscars show. Annie runs through October 8, 2017. Tickets - $30.00 for adults and $20.00 for seniors and children 12 & under - can be purchased by calling OvationTix at 212-352-3101, or by visiting http://galleryplayers.com/box-office/
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