Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

 Annie, Book by Thomas Meehan, Music by Charles Strouse

Lyrics by Martin Charnin, Suzart Productions

Directed by Kraig-Paul Proulx

 Success is elusive, especially when the product seems simple but actually requires a great deal of subtlety and skill to make it more than a sickly sweet vehicle for kids looking cute on stage.

Annie, the 1977 musical inspired by the Orphan Annie cartoon strip of the 1930s, is such a product. While the musical, with book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, has its share of catchy tunes and even a near-classic number in Tomorrow, it drips with sentiment and requires a massive suspension of disbelief to become even mildly credible.

The Annie fairytale was meant to inject hope into a bad time. Set in 1933 New York City against the backdrop of the aftermath of the Depression and the advent of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, it promises that dreams can come true. The poorest of children may be adopted by the richest of men, who will even be willing to take in a stray dog.

 

The dog, Sandy (played with aplomb and great interest in treats by ex-guide dog trainee Duke in the Suzart production) is invariably a scene-stealer.

This is not to say that there aren’t some charming moments from other members of the cast, of course. For example, the smallest of the orphans, Sophia Pierce as Molly, has a powerful presence for one so young. And, on the adult front, Dan Boucher as Oliver Warbucks, sings well and delivers a solid characterization.

There are other good moments and sequences through the show. For instance, in the title role, Abigail Graves has a fine silent exchange with Daddy Warbucks’s secretary, Grace Farrell (Laurel Boucher) when suggesting that she should be the chosen one to spend Christmas at the Warbucks mansion. And the over-the-top cliché of the crook and his girl friend (Jason Sedlar and Dani Bone-Corbishley) almost works, as do some aspects of Rachel Rumstein’s characterization of the nasty orphanage boss, Miss Hannigan. The radio show scene hosted by Bert Healy (Peter Graves) is also quite amusing in parts.

 

But there are an equal number of sequences that do not work. Director Kraig-Paul Proulx’s decision to have children playing FDR and his cabinet makes no sense when other adult roles are played by adults. Sadly, slow pickups on lines, weak dancing, off-key singing and an embarrassingly bad beginning from the orchestra define this production of Annie more clearly than the joy that is usually evident in Suzart’s shows.

 

Suzart’s Annie continues in the Centrepointe Studio Theatre to December 10.

 

Director and choreographer: Kraig-Paul Proulx

Musical director: Taryn Mader

Set: Sally McIntyre

Lighting: Jeff Schulz

Sound: Aaron Reid

Costumes: Tracy Reid

 

Cast:

Annie………………………………………Abigail Graves

Oliver Warbucks…………………………..Dan Boucher

Miss Aggie Hannigan……………………..Rachel Rumstein

Grace Farrell………………………………Laurel Boucher

Rooster Hannigan………………………….Jason Sedlar

Lily St. Regis………………………………Dani Bone-Corbishley

Bert Healy………………………………….Peter Graves

Franklin D. Roosevelt……………………..Griffin Brown

Star-to-Be………………………………….Katherine Colbert

Sandy………………………………………Duke

 

Orphans

Bejanka Bennett, Sara Beuree,Erica Boucher,  Ishita Chawla, Jenny Colbert, Maddie Fulford, Annie Hume, Camryn Livesey, Fiona McCready, Kate Moir, Sophia Nikolakakos, Sophia Pierce, Carolyn Reid, Natalie Reid, Ella Zeglinski-Spinney

 

Servants

Dave Corbishley, Reagan Crotty, Alicia Doner-Freire, Fenton Ho, Shanna Jacklin, Laura Jane Nikolakakos

 

Ensemble

Mary Bagley, Zander Bone, Rowan Boucher, Grace Cosgrove, Darlene Fisher, Camilo Harris, Brady Kantor, Dahlia Meyer, Leonard Proulx.

Orchestra

Kimbal Bird, Doug Brierley, Jessica Granata, Peter Mackechnie, Pat Messner, Larry Sargent, Jeff Teutsch.