Friday, June 22, 2012

REVIEW: Annie presented by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions

APA Lyric Theatre, Tuesday June 19

I have seen so many amateur dramatic (amdram) productions of Annie that I thought I ought to see a professional one to see whether my bias against it might change or not. I have seen both the film (1982 with Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters and Aileen Quinnas) and the television (1999 with Victor Garber, Kathy Bates, Audra McDonald, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth and Alicia Morton) adaptation, with unbelievably fabulous cast and performances. They definitely benefited from editing and camera works where the children’s singing and dancing were perfected and highlighted. On stage however, especially with amdrams, the kids tend to sing off-key and forget their choreography… cute but not quite charming. It is then left to the adults to supply the artistic value.

Annie, a family musical with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and the book by Thomas Meehan, is based on the then popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie. The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, setting a record for the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre). For its 35th anniversary, this “direct from UK tour” by the Playhouse Productions Ltd. comes ahead of the Broadway revival which will open on November of 2012. This boasts a cast including Su Pollard as Miss Hannigan and David McAlister as Daddy Warbucks, and they are both supposed to be quite popular in UK. To be very honest, I don’t know them… no… I think I have seen Su Pollard before… oh yes, I was in UK last Christmas and the weather was horrible; thus I ended up staying home and watched BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing; and that is were I saw her!

Overall, this production directed and choreographed by Roger Hannah and set design by Alan Miller-Bunford was a fine production, but definitely not up to the standards of West End and never mind Broadway. The main culprit was the sound design (Steven Brierley). Most of the time, the performers were drowned out by the orchestra, not because the orchestra was loud, but because the microphones for the actors were either misplaced or just simply low in volume. The other guilty party was the chorus. Yes, the theatre was not full (actually, half empty), but do they really need to look so bored? The chorus actually makes a huge difference in such musicals as it has the sole responsibility to provide the razzle-dazzle, the breaks from those soppy ballads and most importantly, to legitimize the family musical format.

As for the principals, all did well. Su Pollard, as Miss Hannigan, was vocally strong and her comedic timing was impeccable. Though with her bad hair and make-up, Su did look ridiculously old, especially when put side-by-side with her spunky brother Rooster Hannigan played by Michael Watson. David McAlister gave a splendid and energetic portrayal of Daddy Warbucks, too bad that most of the times, it was difficult to hear him. Perfect for the role was Simone Craddock as Grace Farrell. Vocally and dramatically superb, how I wish the sound was better. Curiously and seriously tanned was Emily Trebicki playing Lily St. Regis. She stuck out like a sore thumb even from the start where she was one of the homeless people. Finally, Ella Crossland as Annie was wonderful. Though a bit bland at the start, she quickly progressed into a confident and believable Annie.


Hong Kong, Lyric Theatre, 31 May - 24 June

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At June 22, 2012 at 7:18 PM , Blogger Meaghan said...

The chorus was actually all hired local and they learned the show in two weeks. Including the kids. Only the principals the production elements were shipped in from England.

At June 22, 2012 at 7:35 PM , Blogger SATOSHI said...

Hi Meaghan :-) The kids were great, but the adult chorus were very bland... It shows that the show was learnt in two weeks :-)


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