by Terrance Mc Arthur
All right, everybody, finish this line:
“The sun’ll come out__________”
And the answer is….”TOMORROW!”
We all know that song. It’s from the musical Annie, based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip which was the 1930s precursor of Wonder Woman. Annie didn’t have a magic lasso, but she had a sunshiny attitude that kept her going through all her dangerous adventures. Those adventures are back on stage in a Good Company Players’ production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater through March 18.
There are two songs that really bother me, probably because I associate them with small children singing loudly off key—“It’s a Small World” and “Tomorrow.” During the show, I leaned over to my wife, and whispered with amazement, “I like this song.” Maybe I just hadn’t heard it done the right way, before.Emily Pessano’s sure-footed production does Annie the right way. Plucky orphan (Joy Smith) temporarily escapes from the orphanage run by the slimy and tipsy Miss Hannigan (Julie Lucido), and meets a sandy-colored pooch (Birdie and Harry alternate in the role). Billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Eric Estep) is looking for an orphan to share his mansion for Christmas. His assistant (Laurie Pessano) brings him Annie. The child’s bubbly personality and wide-eyed wonder softens the crusty industrialist’s heart, and even has an effect on President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Roger Christenson). Meanwhile, Hannigan’s ne’er-do-well brother Rooster (Nicholas Nunez) and his flashy-trashy girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Mary Beth Carter) help the orphanage manager in a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s funny, nostalgic, and peppered with politics.
Smith is truly a Joy (I can’t believe I wrote that). Feisty but sweet, her voice isn’t just a blast of power; there is warmth and wistfulness. It’s more than just optimism. It’s hope.
Estep follows a similar softening arc as he did as Capt. Von Trapp in GCP’s The Sound of Music. He’s a big, imposing guy, but Warbucks becomes a caring guardian. The mild swearing he utters reminds you this isn’t the funny papers.
Lucido is a bowling ball knocking down every pin in her way. She’s loathsome, coy, snookered, scheming, frustrated, and exhilarating, and she can do high-kicks that would rip a lesser performer’s body in two.
Nunez as Rooster isn’t Tim Curry, and that’s good. He’s a con man who’s fallen for his own con, thinking he can pull off any scam. Carter shimmies and cracks wise, and makes the most of Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s period-loving costume that makes her an optical delusion. Christenson evokes the Presidential style of FDR, deftly catching the laugh lines and tossing them out to the audience.
Almost half of the cast are current or former members of GCP’s Junior Company, and the current lineup performs a pre-show based on songs from comic strips and animated cartoons, covering everyone from Popeye to Shrek to Charlie Brown and Scooby-Doo.
Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.