Want to share some holiday fun with friends and family? Then Annie is the ticket. Presented by Charm City Players at The Hannah More Arts Center, on the grounds of St. Timothy’s School in Pikesville, Annie is a full-length production for (almost) all ages.
Annie is based on the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray that made its debut on August 5, 1924; book is by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Marin Charnin. The original comic strip inspired a radio show, a Broadway musical, and a film release. As a play, the storyline focuses on orphan Annie and her hope to find her parents in the midst of the 1930’s Depression. Her luck changes when she is invited to the Warbucks’ mansion for the Christmas holiday. Though Oliver Warbucks (E. Lee Nicol) wants to adopt Annie, he decides to help her track down her parents.
‘Annie’ is a holiday treat with sprinkles on top. It is an enjoyable show for all.
Charm City’s production, directed by Stephen Napp, is just that – charming. Brielle Herlein makes the mark as Annie both with her acting and singing. She plays Annie as tough yet nurturing in the opening scene when she comforts Molly (Grace Volpe). Even though Annie gets everything thrown at her, she still remains optimistic that her parents will come back to get her. Additionally, as an actress, she holds her own on stage with the adult leads. Herlein’s voice soars to the stars and back again. Her “Tomorrow” solo with her (live) dog Sandy (Dulcie) was full of inspiration and emotion; evident that Herlein has a bright future ahead of her.
Molly portrayed by Grace Volpe is a little rag-a-muffin with crooked pig tails that teeters between fear and fearlessness. She’s afraid of a bad dream but has the gumption to stand up to Miss Hannigan (Susan Schindler). Volpe is as adorable and her singing is right on key.
Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks played by E. Lee Nicol is the pleasant surprise. Appearing to be austere and regimented, he really is a gentle giant. He remembers where he comes from and knows the value of his riches. As Annie and Oliver build their relationship, so does the father-daughter chemistry between Herlein and Nicol. They really solidify their relationship when they team in the duet, “I Don’t Need Anything but You.”
Adding to the dynamics of Annie and Oliver’s relationship is Grace Farrell played by Gabrielle Faye. She is Oliver Warbucks’ loyal secretary who is pure class. Grace is a very multi-faceted character and Faye plays her with a dignified fierceness. She doesn’t yell, she doesn’t bully, but she gets the job done and that includes the positive outcome for Oliver and Annie. When Grace sings with Oliver and Annie in the number “N.Y.C,” it is a heart-warming scene.
Miss Hannigan played by Susan Schindler is bawdy, blatant, and bumbling fun. While loving her alcoholic concoctions, Miss Hannigan is waiting for her chance on easy street, as she effortlessly sings of her distain for little girls, in the song, “Little Girls.” Schindler exaggerates this character with grand moves and is the comedic diva. It’s the character everyone loves to hate and yet holds out hope that Miss Hannigan will give up her shenanigans. Much like Cruella Deville (101 Dalmatians), her greed gets the best of her.
Rooster Hannigan played by James B. Fitzpatrick, is slimier than his sister. It is Rooster and Lily St. Regis, played Christina Napp, who impersonates Annie’s parents in order to garner the $50,000 reward from Oliver Warbucks. Though it is not realized until the 11th hour, Grace, Oliver, and Annie do figure out the true identity of Annie’s “parents” and their accomplice. It has to be said, that even though Napp’s character Lily is a menace, her voice is remarkable, especially when she teams up with Fitzpatrick and Schindler in the “Easy Street” number.
As previously noted, this production of Annie is a full-production that has a cast for 47 players (and I wish I could mention everyone). Kudos goes to at least two supporting cast members: Jerry Gietka who plays Drake, the butler at the Warbucks’ Mansion and a faithful friend to Annie and Oliver.
Additionally, Dave Guy who portrays F.D.R is just a hoot. He is fun and quite memorable with his energy (from a wheelchair) and his political comedy. The adult ensemble lends their voices and their talent to round out Annie’s storyline.
The orphan’s ages range from 6 – 15 years old. All the girls did a wonderful job both singing and dancing their way from cleaning the floors in “It’s the Hard Knock Life” to their happy ending in “New Deal for Christmas.” Annie’s BFF’s include: Pepper (Aisling Murphy), Duffy (Olivia Herlein), July (Isabella Hyazinth), Tessie (Rachel McNear), Kate (Madison Brooke Pyles) and Molly (Grace Volpe).
The set is designed and constructed by Stephen Napp. The backdrop is comprised of the city skyline and the Manhattan Bridge. The set itself is a series of scenic cubes that rotate to represent the orphanage, the Warbucks’ mansion, and the cabinet room in the White House.
The costumes are designed by Marie Bankerd and Patricia Pereira and are loyal to the play production. The orphans are dressed in long sleeve blouses, smock dresses, stockings and boots; the Warbucks’ staff attire is comprised of maid and butler uniforms, Oliver and Grace are impeccably dressed in suits and business dresses of the era, while Miss Hannigan, Rooster and Lily are dressed to reflect the garishness of their characters and their socio-economic level. Annie’s signature red dress completes this production.
Annie is a holiday treat with sprinkles on top. It is an enjoyable show for all.
Running Time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
NOTE: There are no shows the weekend of December 7 – 8th. Give yourself plenty of time to park and walk a short distance to the theater, just past the sports field.
This is Charm City Players first production and it runs through January 26, 2014. All shows are at 2 PM. Tickets can be purchased at: https://charmcityplayers.com/.