I don’t remember how it happened, but at some point in the past few months my daughter became obsessed with Annie. The musical. She can sing “Tomorrow” and “Maybe” with the best of ’em, and she’s only 6. We’re thinking about dyeing her hair red and bringing her to auditions.
Her Annie obsession came just after the Broadway revival ended its run (in January 2014), but we were thrilled to learn that the show is now on a national tour! It’s currently playing at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music before moving across the country through the summer. (Check cities and dates here.)
It was therefore with much excitement that we recently had a daddy-daughter evening at the opening night performance of Annie in Philadelphia.
And what a night it was. Annie did not disappoint. The audience was a mix of families with young kids and older couples, and everyone seemed equally enchanted by the production, the songs, and the young actors on stage.
Even though the musical premiered in 1976, it’s almost impossible to talk about the stage production without referencing the massively popular 1982 film version starring Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney, and Carol Burnett. And for good reason. The two are very similar. This revival is–in many respects–almost a carbon copy of the film…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Right off the bat, we need to acknowledge Issie Swickle in the role of Annie. It’s not easy for a kid to essentially hold together an entire musical and relegate the adult cast members to mere supporting cast. But Ms. Swickle does an admirable job in the role, and she absolutely nails the songs. My daughter was singing right along with her, and she had an enormous smile plastered on her face for the entire 2+ hour run time. That’s no easy feat.
Although Annie was the highlight of the show for my daughter, the highlight for me was a bit more surprising: the orphans. Unfortunately, they only had a few scenes, but that’s hardly their fault. Not only did they turn in a phenomenal rendition of “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” but that group of six girls absolutely chewed up the scenery and stole the show for me. Particularly Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly. The sass on that little girl is outstanding.
Lynn Andrews also delivers a magnificent Miss Hannigan who is just dripping with sleaze, but she also manages to save the character from parody and finds her humor. Every moment of literal laugh-out-loud glee can be credited to her portrayal of Miss Hannigan. Of the entire adult cast, she was far and away the star.
The production itself was great. The scenery, sets, costumes, music — it was all Broadway caliber…not just “touring Broadway” caliber. If you’ve got a 6-year-old in tow (like I did), the show will blow him or her away. If you’ve got a 6-year-old inside of you (like I do), it’ll blow you away.
For those in the Philadelphia area, Annie is playing at the Academy of Music through March 22. If the show is coming near you in the coming months, don’t miss it!