It’s not a hard-knock life when you go see Annie the Musical
on Broadway. Even purists of the 1982 movie version will fall in love with this
charming and soulful stage production of the story of the lovable red-headed
Annie the Musical starts off with seen-better-days clothing
hanging from lines. The feeling of hard economic times resonates throughout the
show. It definitely hits home for those struggling during today’s tough times,
too. Then, the curtains, er, clothes rise, and the lovely Lilla Crawford takes
the stage to belt out the powerful “Maybe,” trying to console the orphans—all
the while trying to console herself, too.
The cast in Annie the Musical is simply spot-on. Oliver Warbucks’
character is more well rounded in this version, thanks in great part to the
wonderful Anthony Warlow. Warbucks’ thoughtful loneliness is felt more strongly
here than in the film and his ability to love is more credible. His chemistry
with Crawford is palpable, and happily, very genuine.
The adorable orphans all do a great job singing and dancing
their little hearts out. Emily Rosenfeld, who plays pint-sized Molly, steals
the limelight. And when we say that she’s little, we mean that she “fits in a
dresser drawer” little. Literally.
Brynn O’Malley plays a more reserved (and British!) Grace
Farrell, who slowly but surely falls in love with the plucky orphan. And
Annie’s furry sidekick Sandy, played by Sunny, received oohs and awws with
every entrance stage left or right. But despite first-rate performances, there
was one actor who simply stole the show.
Two words: Jane Lynch.
The Palace Theater imploded when Lynch burst onto the stage
in full Miss Hannigan regalia. This is a role Lynch is meant to play. With
every smirk and “sure” she utters, she garnered laughs from the audience, who
ate up every moment she was on stage. Her rendition of “Little Girls” was
simply awesome, and makes you feel that Lynch is secretly pinching the young
actresses offstage as well!
While Broadway musicals function more as an escape from
reality, Annie the Musical is saying, “We know everyone is going through a hard
time. Let’s get through it together.” There is also more history on the
characters, and interestingly enough, even the more questionable characters,
such as Rooster and Lily St. Regis, are fairly likeable. And while Miss
Hannigan is, well, Miss Hannigan, you feel her loneliness as well. While she
won’t win Mother of the Year, she’s also not as mean as in the film. All she
really needs is a good Saturday night date—and you’re rooting for her to get
For Annie purists, there is a notable absence in the lack of
a Punjab character. But what it misses in characters it makes up for in extra
scenes. There is a great moment under the bridge with the homeless people that
Annie interacts with, adding to the heaviness and desperation that the
characters feel. President Roosevelt gets more stage time as well and there’s a
“historical” moment which shows how he comes up with the idea for the New Deal,
thanks to Orphan Annie.
The stage direction and design are all wonderful, and the
stage lighting is simply beautiful and fit to flatter. There are great
one-liners in the film. When Annie finds out that Ralph and Shirley Mudge, her
“parents” live in New Jersey, she pauses and says, sadly, “New Jersey?” which
elicited hoots and hollers from the NYC natives in the audience. There is also
an amazing one-liner from Miss Hannigan that we don’t want to spoil. Let’s just
say that the actors had to stop for more than a minute to let the laughing die
From Annie to Warbucks, Rooster to Miss Hannigan, you really
feel for all of these characters as they struggle through tough times. Annie
the Musical is all about finding your home, finding your place in the world—and
doing it even when things are not easy. But just like the ever-optimistic
Annie, you’ll walk out of the Palace Theater smiling, into the super bright
lights of Broadway, and know that the sun will always come out tomorrow.