Note: Since the Beck Center’s production of “Annie” is nearly identical to last year’s I felt compelled to use an “encore production” of my 2012 review. Name changes have been made to reflect any changes in personnel as well as an original opening paragraph.
Whenever a major player in the Cleveland Fine Arts attempts to do a repeat of a major work it is a risky business. In order for it to fly, the “new” production needs to be as good if not better than the previous outing. With the Beck Center for the Arts encore production of “Annie” you will find this to be true. With a majority of the cast returning including all the principals (even the dog is the same) you have a show that moves along smoothly with everyone comfortable in their roles. It really is a terrific show that deserves to play in front of sold out audiences. Most of the superb orchestra is back under the direction of Larry Goodpaster, the cute orphans, the mean Miss Hannigan with the nefarious Rooster and Lily St. Regis, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks and his house staff, FDR, Annie and of course Sandy have all returned to delight you. What follows is last year’s review which is as true today as when I wrote it last year.
One thing that can be always said about a Beck Center for the Arts Production on the Mackey Stage is that a tremendous amount of effort and attention to detail goes into every musical. So it is with the wonderful production of Annie now playing until January 5, 2014. From the “big band” sound of the 15 piece orchestra, to the dance numbers to the singing and to the acting you can tell that everyone involved with this musical put a tremendous effort into making sure it was the best that it could be.
The group of orphans is absolutely precious. A special nod goes out to Riley-Marie Haley who plays Molly. She is just as cute as can be without being a showoff. The entire staff, for that matter, has taken a show that could be overly sweet and syrupy and made it extremely entertaining. The entire cast seems to have been grown just for their parts. Anna Barrett plays Annie with a bit of kid toughness. Her singing is right on the mark and she gives a powerful performance throughout the musical. Gilamesh Taggett as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks plays his role with class and style, as does Caitlin Elizabeth Reilly as Grace Farrell.
Lenne Snively as Miss Hannigan the head mistress of the orphan home is an absolute hoot. She belts out a song with the best of them and her facial twitches and expressions are perfect compliments for the role. Matthew Ryan Thompson returns to the Mackey Stage this time as Rooster pulling out all the stops in a hilarious comic romp. His “Easy Street” song and dance number with Lily St. Regis (played by Molly Huey) and Lenne Snively (Miss Hannigan) is a real show stopper. I would also like to point out Al Nickolas in dual roles as Drake and Jimmy Johnson took small parts and expanded them to fill the stage without hogging the limelight. He is a true gentleman actor. One last surprise is Leslie Feagan as FDR who has the look and voice of our past President.
One last mention, Sandy the dog (played by Buckley Collier) will melt your heart.
With twenty two song and dance numbers this musical is wall to wall with familiar hits from this famous Broadway production. It is always a challenge to do songs that have been measured up to some incredible performances but this cast is up to the challenge and then some. This is not music for shy people to perform. It is loud, raucous and fun. A huge debt is owed to the orchestra who never missed a note or beat and kept a lively pace up for the entire show.
Another gold star goes to the behind the scenes folks who came up with the fantastic sets. The transition between numbers was smooth and quick and the sets themselves are quite startling. It is a true measure of a theater’s professionalism.
Shooting From The Lip (My Last Words): Beck Center’s Encore Production of “Annie” is better than ever thanks to the return of most of the experienced cast, lavish sets, great music played by a truly competent orchestra, wonderful acting and singing and the return of the cute dog makes this an enjoyable evening of holiday fare that the entire family will enjoy.
Molly, Riley-Marie Haley; Kate, Elise Pakiela; Tessie, Jade McGee; Pepper, Maggie Devine; July, Erin Eisner; Duffy, Natalie Welch; Annie, Anna Barrett; Miss Hannigan, Lenne Snively; Mr. Bundles-Patrick Carroll-Morganthau, Patrick Carroll; Apple Seller/Rockette/Army Girl, Amiee Collier; Stray, Watson Thompson; Sandy, Buckley Collier; Lt. Ward-Cordell Hull-G-Man, John J. Polk; Sophie The Kettle-Mrs. Greer, Libby Merriman; Grace Farrell, Caitlin Elizabeth Reilly*; Drake-Jimmy Johnson, Al Nicholas; Mrs. Pugh-Frances Perkins, Barb Dragony; Cecille-Connie Boylan-Rockette, Llenelle Gibson; Annette-Star-to-Be, Carleigh Spence; Servant-Assistant Dog Catcher-Society Man, Cody Zak; Servant-FX Man, J.P. Gagen; Servant-Street Sweeper, Kevin Lauver; Servant-Street Sweeper, Tony Heffner; Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Gilamesh Taggett; Rooster, Matthew Ryan Thompson; Lily St. Regis, Molly Huey; Bert Healy-Louis Howe, Trey Gilpin; Ronnie Boylan-Rockette, Holly Kay Harris; FDR, Leslie Feagan*; and Harold Ickes-Dog Catcher-Chauffeur, Mark Monday.
Patrick Carroll- Leslie Feagan*- J.P. Gagen-Llenelle Gibson- Kevin Lauver- Al Nicholas- John J. Polk- Carleigh Spence-Ashley Bossard-Amiee Collier-Barb Dragony-Trey Gilpin-Holly Kay Harris-Tony Heffner-Kevin Lauver-Mark Monday and Cody Zak.
*Acton appears courtesy of the American Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union of actors and stage managers.
Stuff You Need to Know
Book By, Thomas Meehan; Music By Charles Strouse; Lyrics By, Martin Charnin; Original Broadway Production Directed by Martin Charnin; Presented on Broadway by Mike Nichols; Produced By, Irwin Meyer-Stephen R. Friedman-Lewis Allen-Alvin Nedelander Associates Inc-The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts-Icarus Productions;Based on “Little Orphan Annie”®, By permission of Tribune Media Services, Inc.; Originally Produced by The Goodspeed Opera House; Michael P. Price, Executive Director.
Musical Direction, Larry Goodpaster; Choreographed By, Martin Cespedes**; Scenic & Lighting Designer, Trad A. Burns; Costume Designer, Karen Ziegler; Sound Designer, Richard B. Ingraham; Stage Manager, Diana D’Alessandro; Technical Director, Joseph Carmola and Directed by Scott Spence.
**Member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
Conductor, Larry Goodpaster; Keyboards, Bryan Bird and Larry Goodpaster; Reeds, Kim Coxe-John Dokler-Karen Langenwalter-Steve
Samual; Trumpets, Juan Ingram-Teresa May-Matt Ralph and Matt Wirfel; Trombones, Vince Guentner and Dan DiMarino; Guitar/Banjo, Dave Maxson; Bass, Kevin Aylward; Drums, Bill Hart.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Please note early curtain times. Special performances will be held 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 19; matinee-only on Saturday, December 28; and 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. performances on Saturdays, December 14 and January. 4. Tickets are now on sale and matinee performances are selling fast.
Tickets for Annie are $29 for adults, $26 for seniors (65 and older), $12 for students (with valid I.D.), and $10 for children (12 and under). An additional $3 service fee per ticket is applied at the time of purchase. Flex Passes and group discounts (13 or more) are available.
Purchase tickets online at beckcenter.org or call Customer Services at (216) 521-2540, ext. 10. Beck Center for the Arts is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, just ten minutes west of downtown Cleveland. Free onsite parking is available.
This production of Annie is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (mtishows.com) and is sponsored by First Federal Lakewood, West Roofing Systems, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and the Ohio Arts Council.
Beck Center for the Arts is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization that offers professional theater productions, arts education programming in dance, music, theater, visual arts, early childhood, and creative arts therapies for special needs students, and free gallery exhibits featuring local, regional, and international artists.