by Lorie Lewis Ham
The heartwarming tale of an orphan named Annie has been touching hearts for years–first as a comic strip and then as a musical, and later as movies. This month the musical Annie comes to life again on the stage of the Reedley Opera House, presented by the River City Theatre Company.
Set in 1933, the story opens with Annie living in an orphanage with several other little girls, under the care of Miss Hannigan, who clearly doesn’t like what she does. Annie though insists that she is not an orphan, that her parents are still out there and will come back for her. Annie gets the chance to spend Christmas with billionaire Oliver Warbucks and her life will never be the same. The story also shows the state of the country at the time with people poor, homeless and hopeless. Annie brings hope and optimism to the story.
This musical is filled with hopeful and sweet songs sung by Annie like the well known, “Tomorrow”, and “Maybe.” The orphans bring a lot of energy and passion to another well known song, “It’s A Hard Knock Life.” The villains of the show, Miss Hannigan, her brother Rooster, and his friend Lily, bring some fun and comedy to the show with their song “Easy Street.” And of course there’s Hannigan’s well-known song “Little Girls.”
In this RCTC production, Elizza Sanchez makes her stage debut in the role of Annie. She touches your heart with her performances of “Maybe” and “Tomorrow”, and is just plain adorable. Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks is played by RCTC veteran Taniman Clark, and his song with Annie toward the end of the show, “I Don’t Need Anything But You”, was very sweet. Teresa Hoopes plays Warbucks ever loyal and efficient secretary Grace, and another RCTC veteran, Don Applegate, plays the butler Drake.
Brianne Vogt is a riot as Miss Hannigan, as are Joseph Ham as Rooster, and Jessica Runnels as Lily. “Easy Street” has always been a favorite song of mine in this show. They also do a great job of playing the inept villains that try to benefit from Annie’s good fortune. Normally, Jessica and Brianne are seen in more sweet innocent roles, so this was a nice change for them and shows how versatile they can be.
Not only is Elizza new to the RCTC stage, but there are several other RCTC first timers in this show such as Reedley dentist Mark Luzania as President Roosevelt, and Eloy Mireles in multiple roles. Costumer Stephanie Barnett did a wonderful job of bringing the time period to life. I especially liked Lily, Rooster, and Hannigan’s costumes, as well as the extra little touch she added to costumes for the Christmas song finale.I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dog playing Sandy, therapy dog Nick. Nick also played Sandy in the Reedley High School version of Annie just a couple of years ago–a production in which Jessica played Grace, and Heidi Harris (who plays an older orphan named Pepper in this production) played Annie. Nick was well behaved and adorable as the beloved Sandy.
If you are looking for a perfect show to take the whole family to, don’t miss Annie. The show runs through December 22 and has more midweek performances than usual for an RCTC show. They have also added a new discount ticket of $15 for balcony or orchestra. Check out the RCTC website for ticket info, or call 559-638-6500 or 866-977-6500.