Over the past 2 seasons New Candlelight Theatre had been in a groove like the Phillies pitching staff. Their Doc Halladay was “Cats” and “Footloose”; Cliff Lee was “Oklahoma” and “Joseph” and Cole Hamels was “Little Shop” and “Evita”.
ANNIE was a minor league choice. True, the tunes ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Maybe’ stick in your brain like oil to a pelican in the Gulf disaster, but ANNIE should be sent to Old Timers Hall of Overdone Musicals.
Production qualities were not commensurate with what we have come to expect at NCT. The set was one dimensional; cartoon-ish in both design and application and in no fashion integrated with the heartstrings-pulling drama of the little orphan girl.
Annie (Jamieson O’Brien) is a good actor and has quite a resume for her age. Her two aforementioned show stoppers were sung without the degree of desolation, yearning and hope the lyrics speak to. Her voice was shrill rather than melodic and a voice instructor should suggest letting the air come over the palate from her diaphragm rather than straight from her chest.
Molly (Nicole Hemphill) is simply too cute. There is no doubt in my mind she will be the title character in some future production of this show.
Warbucks (Patrick O’Hara) is a fine actor and even better all around trouper. In the “Full Monty” his body was bare; in this one he bares his hair! His scene explaining to Annie his growing up in Hell’s Kitchen was the most dramatic of the evening.
Miss Hannigan (Gerri Weagraff) plays comic drunk well, a homegrown version of Carol Burnett. Her grifters-in-crime Rooster (Dewey Oriente) and Lily (Lindsay Mauck) are strong in their portrayals. Potential was lost in their own show stopper ‘Easy Street’. More rehearsal could make that the number it should be.
What little choreography there was (Shauna Goodman) could have been enhanced in ‘Hooverville’, generally a major production number. Goodman left it to the dancers to create their own little prances.
F.D.R/Cop (David Snyder) channeled our most patrician of Presidents as the former and delivered an authentic Irish brogue as the latter.
Grace (Megan Pisors) is an attractive stage presence with a clear voice. The server at the table for my dear sister Liz and me, I wondered why she needed a wig (Freda Carson) on stage. While Pisors’ was acceptable, the hairpiece given to Annie was a bit large for her head and reminded me of the style preferred by my grandmother. Why not give her the red-haired Afro we are all familiar with and be done with it?
Credit where credit is due: Next season opens with the formidable MISS SAIGON, Music by les messieurs who brought you LES MIS.
Through August 21. Next up is DAMN YANKEES.
NCT is still the greatest value in live theatre.
Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Through August 21, 2011
New Candlelight Theatre
2208 Millers Rd.
Ardentown, DE 19810