A Feel good Annie

Annie was inspired by the “Little Orphan Annie” newspaper comic strip that ran from 1924 to 2010.

A SCENE from ‘Annie.’ (photo credit: NIR STOLO)
A SCENE from ‘Annie.’
(photo credit: NIR STOLO)
This summer-vacation Annie revival (we did it here in 2001 and 2010) is wowing the kids, as it ought, because there’s Lily Ben-Nahshon’s nifty New York City twinkling skyline set, with its brutalist-style orphanage and the art-deco Chrysler Building-inspired Warbucks mansion. There’s Ella Kolanski’s cheerful costuming of mix-&-match clothing for the orphans to Grace’s (Hani Nahmias) understated elegance or Lily St. Regis (Yarden Merhavi) flashy dresses. There’s Alexander Mikhaelov’s dramatic lighting that whisks us from venue to venue, and Zedi (musicals are his thing) Tsarfati’s brisk direction that bowls the production merrily along like a hoop on a smooth pavement.
Annie was inspired by the “Little Orphan Annie” newspaper comic strip that ran from 1924 to 2010. The strip chronicled the adventures of Annie and her dog Sandy over decades that included the New Deal, World War II, the Kennedy and Nixon years and on into the new millennium.
The musical – it premiered on Broadway in 1976 and won seven Tonys – tells how 11-year-old Annie (Lia Shaked) still dreams of finding the parents who left her at the city orphanage as a baby. Miss Hannigan (Tali Oren), who runs the orphanage with the benevolence of Attila the Hun and really doesn’t like Annie, is not best pleased when the elegant Grace (Hani Nahmias) insists on taking the plucky little redhead to spend Christmas with multimillionaire Oliver Warbucks (Avi Kushnir). He and Annie hit it off at once, and away we gallop, via beautifully improbable adventures, to the Happy Ending.
The star of this production has got to be Tali Oren’s gloriously crass and vulgar Miss Hannigan. She is joined in excellence by Roy Weinberg as her idler brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily (Merhavi). The trio has a rip-roaring dance number called “Easy Street” or “North in the City” (Tzfon Ha’ir) in Efrat’s intelligent Hebrew translation. The one-time perennially adolescent Nahmias has gracefully metamorphosed into the charming, compassionate and vivid Grace Farrell, Warbucks’s secretary.
Shaked makes an appealing Annie but lacks that extra bit of pizzazz the character needs, pizzazz which is amply provided by the diminutive Omer Moran as Molly, the youngest orphan. The big disappointment was Kushnir’s “Daddy” Warbucks. He sleepwalked through the role, almost every word and gesture performed by rote. Granted, this was the second of three shows that day, but still! As President Roosevelt, Dalik Wollinitz was only slightly less soporific.
Much applause to the company’s dancers/singers, who tackled their various roles in good voice and with quicksilver feet. Also it was a neat bit of direction and choreography to make the Warbucks mansion numbers classier than those of the orphanage/New York street.
Despite the over-amplification that impeded text comprehension, this is very definitely a look-good, feel-good Annie. It’s just a pity that it lacks even a scrap of substance to give it the wee bit of heft that even a musical needs.