Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Maybe, Just Maybe (Stage Review: Annie, Palace Theater)

ANNIE was my very first Broadway so it is very close to my heart. I didn't even realize that while watching it, I knew all the words to the score: it is simply one of the best ones there, so effervescent, so hopeful, so tuneful. I was ready to be touched, and I was ready to be wowed. This show has also never been timely: these are dim recession days, and yes, we can all use hope, and this show gives those in spades.

Too bad, I only just liked the show as a whole. There are some great performances anchoring the show. It is my first time seeing Anthony Warlow, an Australian theater superstar, and I think he has one of the greatest voices on the boards today. He has great rapport with Lilla Crawford, who plays the adorable tot. She has a great set of lungs, and serves the score very well, but there's something in her performance that doesn't score a home run: is she not big enough? I felt she took the role a notch lower. Katie Finneran, as Miss Hannigan, should be better. Again, there's something off. I have read people describe her performance as joyless, and maybe that's it. 

I also think that's what the production is missing for me: it could be a little more happy. Perhaps James Lapine's hand was just a little bit too heavy for this show. The sets are a bit too drab, and seems cheap, and the costumes are right, but not dazzling. The choreography is horrid - it's pretty lifeless. I know there are complaints that there are no buckets in "It's A Hard Knock Life," but the idea could have worked. I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by the whole thing. 

Thank God for the score, and it hasn't lost its luster.  When Annie sings "Maybe," I couldn't help but shed a tear. And I have always loved "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile," and even if it is probably the most oversung showtune of all time, "Tomorrow," is still "Tomorrow." . This is one of those shows where you leave the theater humming, and one cannot say that about a lot of scores nowadays.

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