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.
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Photo Suzart After Dark
There are some likeable moments in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, but this inaugural production in Suzart’s new After Dark series still leaves you wondering why the show collected several Tony awards and lasted more than two seasons on Broadway.
Its main merit lies in the few good performances that do take shape and in further revealing the exciting possibilities that the new Live On Elgin holds for Ottawa’s cultural life.
The show, which involves some audience participation, essentially chronicles the progress of a spelling bee in words and music. But Elaine McCausland and her cast are delivering more of a staged performance than anything resembling a proper production. To be sure, the nature of the material might suggest that it’s ideal for an intimate venue like this, but the end result lacks the imaginative vigour that represents this enterprising theatre company at its best.
Still there is pleasurable work from Liam Gosson as Leaf Conneybear, an amiable young contestant with a knack from conquering his insecurities and managing to come through at the last minute with the correct spelling at each round, and Jay Landreville, smug and self-satisfied, as an opponent named Barfee. Rachel Duchesneau has some nice moments of vulnerability as Olive, who’s travelled to the spelling bee by bus, Adam Goldberg is very funny as the increasingly frazzled vice-principal entrusted with giving contestants ludicrous examples of sentences employing words to be spelled correctly, and Axandre Lemours supplies benign comic menace as the guy whose involvement in the bee is part of his community service. (Continue reading » )