Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Musical Director Rose Shorney
Directed by Kelda McManus
Phoenix Players at the ANU Arts Centre
October4 -19, 2013
Review by Len Power
I wonder how many people who are now adults can trace their love for musical theatre back to being taken to a production of the musical, ‘Annie’, when they were children? This 1977 musical, based on the long running American comic strip, ‘Little Orphan Annie’, by Harold Gray, comes around in a new production every few years to delight a new generation. It’s one of the great musicals that everyone should see at least once.
Phoenix Players have mounted an entertaining production with a large cast. There are alternating casts of Orphans and the main character, Annie. At the opening night, Annie was played with great charm by Lydia Milosavljevic, who also sang pleasantly with great assurance. Don Bemrose was in fine voice as Daddy Warbucks, but seemed less sure of his ‘too busy making money’ character in the first act compared to the second act when Annie brings out his human side. Judy Satrapa was a delightfully boozy, lazy and grouchy Miss Hannigan, giving a fine rendition of her big number, ‘Little Girls’.
Amongst the large cast there were fine characterisations by Dim Ristevski as the sleezy Rooster, Miranda Cookman as the glamorous and efficient secretary, Grace Farrell, Maigan Fowler as the dim-witted and gravel-voiced Lilly St. Regis and Bill Lord as a loveable, President Roosevelt.
The big number by the Orphans, ‘Hard Knock Life’, was well sung and performed with energy, enthusiasm and charm. The large Ensemble sang and moved well to simple but appropriate choreography by Annette Sharpe. It was good to see seasoned players Barbara Denham, Gaby Schmid, Dennis Bittisnitch and Steve Galinec giving their level of experience to the ensemble.
The simple but practical set design by Stenita pays homage to the musical’s newspaper origins. Lighting by Liam Ashton was a bit unsettled on opening night but the sound balance designed and operated by Kieren Gillis was fine. The large number of costumes by Judy Satrapa and Jennie Norberry were in the correct period and were worn well by the cast. The ten sewing assistants listed in the program shows how much work goes into this aspect of a big show.
Musical direction by Rose Shorney was superb from the rousing overture to the finale. Every melody in the music score was given its correct balance and colour. It was a delight to listen to and as good as any professional recording I’ve heard of this show..
The director, Kelda McManus, has brought together a pleasing production of a much-loved musical which, hopefully, will inspire more young people to go to musical theatre for the rest of their lives.
Broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 6 October 2013.