Written by Charles Strouse,
So just when will that sun come out?
|Paramount Theatre presents|
Review by Lawrence Bommer
Annie, where you’re never fully dressed without a smile, is now melting the hearts and softening the minds of crowds at the Paramount Theatre. Aurora’s gorgeous Art Deco palace is hosting Charles Strouse’s rags-to-riches musical, a confection of wishful thinking that in 2012 seems a lot less cute or innocent than it was 35 years ago (as New York critics have remarked about the current Broadway revival).
In the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the advent of “Citizens United”-style efforts to buy the White House, there’s something a bit sinister about the alleged benefactor Oliver Warbucks (the last name says it all) and his ability to boss around Franklin Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover, Supreme Court justices, and anyone else around on a whim. Big Daddy indeed.
Sure, this Depression-era mogul, who grew up poor in Hell’s Kitchen but invested his way into Midas-like money, adopts an adorable red-headed orphan girl, rescues her adorable dog Sandy, and discovers the truth about Annie’s real parents—and exposes false pretenders as well as the harridan Miss Hannigan (a delightfully drunken Christine Sherrill), who happens to be a freeloading public servant exploiting the Municipal Orphanage. But beneath the Brooks Brothers suit, Daddy Warbucks (playe by Gene Weygandt) is a hypocrite, at one point boasting how he made all his money himself and never expected help from anyone, then blasting F.D.R. for not doing something to get his factories working again.
Cloying but cumulatively endearing, the songs soften the Christmastide story; Rachel Rockwell’s production values are Paramount-proud. But they can’t disguise the fact that Annie is basically a crash course in neo-feudalism, its focus devoted to appreciating the wisdom and charity of Gene Weygandt’s tough-minded but tender-hearted billionaire—Lord Bountiful bestowing blessings like a plutocratic Santa Claus. It doesn’t help that, stripped of dignity or charm, Don Richard’s President of the U.S. seems particularly ripe for ridicule, as wooden as his wheelchair. Or that we’re to believe that the entire New Deal and its rescue of the American Dream got invented after Caroline Heffernan’s leather-lunged Annie belts out “Tomorrow” and the imbecilic Cabinet suddenly gets serious about unemployment.
The most believable aspect of this revival are the period photographs of Hoovervilles, shantytowns, slums, and back alleys, contrasted with a resplendent Fifth Avenue where, from his block-long manse, Warbucks can buy the Mona Lisa, then succumb to buyer’s remorse.
A show that never was as naïve as it seemed now stinks of 1%-style selfishness and indifference. But, boy, the dog is cute.
Annie continues through December 30th at Paramount Theatre, 23. E. Galena Boulevard, Aurora (map), with performances Wednesdays at 1:30pm. and 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm, Sundays at 1pm and 5pm. Tickets are $35-$47, and are available by phone (630-896-6666) or online through Vendini.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ParamountAurora.com. (Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Liz Lauren
Caroline Heffernan (Annie); Gene Weygandt (Daddy Warbucks); Christine Sherrill (Miss Hannigan); Emily Rohm (Grace Farrell); Jake Klinkhammer (Rooster); Maggie Portman (Lily); Don Richard (FDR, ensemble); Jaclyn Dougherty, Peyton Shaffer (Kate); Emma Gordon, Hannah Whitlock (Tessie); Amelia Kuhlman, Haley Noll (July); Emily Leahy, Sydney Poss (Pepper); Ava Morse, Marieclaire Popernik (Molly); Phoebe Ann Paslaski, Kayla Rea (Duffy); Larry Adams, Kelsey Andres, Aaron Conklin, Adam Estes, Cynthia Fortune Gruel, Brian Michael Hoffman, Glory Kissel, Tommy Lucas, Mandy Modic, Amy Orman, Rebecca Pink, Steven Pringles, Liam Quealy, Todd Rhoades, Holly Stauder, Bret Tuomi, Lauren Villegas (adult ensemble); Mikey (Sandy the dog)
behind the scenes
Rachel Rockwell (director, choreographer); Linda Buchanan (scenic designer); Theresa Ham (costumes); Greg Hofmann (lighting); Mike Tutaj (projections); Jeff Dublinske (sound design); Coral Gable, Christine Conley (wig design); Joel William Lambie (props design); Nicole Hren (asst. director, asst. choreography); Katie Cora Clark (child supervisor); Rose Marie Packer (stage manager); Beth Ellen Spencer (asst. stage manager); Liz Lauren (photos)