November 14, 2017
The orphans missed the entrance to one of their big numbers, the dog didn’t come when he was called and one actor’s mustache (hysterically) wouldn’t stay on his face.
No matter. Minor technical mishaps at a preview performance of “Annie” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport took nothing away from the charm of this endearing, enduring classic. It could even be said they added to it.
Let’s start with those orphans, an adorable bunch of little girls with big voices and major charisma. Annie is played by Broadway vet Presley Ryan (“Fun Home”), who wisely gives the famed cartoon character a bit of street smarts to go with her wistful yearning for a family. (One quibble, though, with the wig she wears before switching to her iconic curls. Much too nice — does that orphanage have a hairdresser on staff?)
Her six compatriots light up the stage. When they finally got together on “It’s the Hard-Knock Life,” they were, well, a knockout. And “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” has the show-stopping quality it demands.
Stealing some of the spotlight is Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan, the bedraggled, beleaguered matron of the orphanage. She’s a powerful belter, raising the roof in “Little Girls,” and she knows how to shake what she’s got as she flirts shamelessly with everyone from the laundry man, Bundles, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt (a pivotal character in this play).
Other standouts in director-choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo’s production include George Dvorsky as a touching Oliver Warbucks and Elizabeth Broadhurst as his loyal secretary, Grace Farrell. Jon Peterson as Miss Hannigan’s just-out-of-the-joint brother, Rooster, was appropriately sleazy. As for his errant mustache, it was so funny I wouldn’t be half surprised if the director decides to keep it in the show.
“Annie,” winner of the 1977 Tony Award for best musical followed by two Broadway revivals and countless community theater productions, has many charms. And not all of them happen onstage. Consider the pure wonder of the little guy next to me when he realized it was snowing on Christopher and Justin Swader’s lovely set, or the way parents snuggled a little closer to their children when Daddy Warbucks sings to Annie the haunting “Something Was Missing.” Or especially when Roosevelt urges his cabinet to raise their voices in the famed ode to positivity “Tomorrow,” and half the audience sings along.
Consider this production a holiday gift from the Engeman and join them.