Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Annie, Regent Theatre, May 29, 2012 ****

Book by Thomas Meehan, Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin 
Regent Theatre, Opening Night May 29, until Aug 12, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 29, 2012
Stars: ****

 Caitlin Marks as Annie (centre). Pic Jim Lee

 THE STAR-STUDDED OPENING NIGHT OF ANNIE IN MELBOURNE confirms that all Julia Gillard needs is a relentlessly optimistic, redheaded orphan like Annie to inspire her to draft a New Deal to dispel the economic gloom for Australian battlers.

Musicals cheered the masses during The Great Depression and the wars so what better way to buoy our spirits than to smile and sing with Annie, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”

Perky, little Caitlin Marks, who alternates the lead with Hattie Hook and Monique Heath, is a cheeky, unaffected, bright-voiced Annie supported by a chorus of cute, scruffy orphans.

This show, directed by Karen Johnson-Mortimer, is littered with memorable, toe-tappin’ tunes including: It’s the Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile and NYC.

There were plenty of music theatre glitterati on the red carpet, but Anthony Warlow, with his resonant, velvet tones, commands the stage as gruff zillionaire, Daddy Warbucks.

Another member of Australian musical theatre royalty, Nancye Hayes, is deliciously jaded, slightly sozzled and saucy as Miss Hannigan, the orphanage tyrant.

Todd McKenney, as her dodgy brother, Rooster Hannigan is slick and sleazy, and Chloƫ Dallimore, as his trashy ladyfriend, Lily St. Regis, is bold and brassy. Their trio of Easy Street with Hayes is a killer number.

Julie Goodwin as Warbucks’ secretary, Grace Farrell, is warm, elegant and sweet voiced.

In a controversial and much anticipated casting, shock jock, Alan Jones, appearing in a wheelchair as Franklin D. Roosevelt gives a serviceable performance but is probably more comfortable on radio than singing.

Kelly Aykers’ choreography is peppy and stylish, the adult chorus is tuneful and Peter Casey and the orchestra make the most of Charles Strouse’s dazzling score.

Kenneth Foy’s extravagant design embodies both poverty and opulence.

This show, based on the 1924 Little Orphan Annie comic strip, may be set in Depression era New York but, even in 2012, Annie chases away the blues.

By Kate Herbert

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