It’s not every day you’re taken out of a grimy orphanage and told to enjoy a two-week stay at a billionaire’s mansion. On the McLean High School stage, a moving rendition of Annie’s classic venture to find her parents delights audiences through sheer awe and fascination.
The play, based on the long-running comic strip by Harold Gray, is set in the 1930s where little orphan Annie searches for her parents but finds a home with Oliver Warbucks instead. Despite the meddlesome tendencies of a conniving trio of tricksters, Annie’s stay at the billionaire’s mansion changes her life in ways she never would have expected.
Leading the cast as the lionhearted Annie, Nancy Pruett uses dynamic gestures and energy to portray the 11-year-old orphan and showcases impressive vocal range and quality to pull off the difficult score. Rachel Lawhead’s portrayal of the grouchy Ms. Hannigan puts the audience in stitches with both big voice and big attitude accompanied by excellent physical comedy. As the wealthy Warbucks, Jack Posey brings his own twist to the role and compellingly portrays the powerful gentleman. Matching Posey’s professional behavior, Nicole Sheehan, as the courteous Grace Farrell, showcases her dulcet voice and superb commitment to character.
The show’s ensemble nicely matches the high quality of the show’s leads. In particular, the orphans spiritedly feed off of each other’s energy and exhibit outstanding comedic timing while also featuring many beautiful voices in “Hard Knock Life”, a crowd favorite. In numbers such as “We’d Like to Thank You” and “N.Y.C”, ensemble members react to their fellow actors, stay committed to character, and give off enough enthusiasm and energy to make the audience want to join in their singing. As Sandy, the darling dog that Annie finds on the street, stage newcomer, Daisy Stone, shines in her acting debut, keeping calm on stage and responding well to Annie and the other cast members.
Correlating with the comic book concept, the technical aspects of the show enhance and strengthen the atmosphere and scene moods. In particular, costumes and makeup in this production are right on target. The orphan’s ratty clothes, bare legs, and unkempt hair contrast nicely with the bright colors and shiny, luxurious fabrics of the Warbucks mansion. The show features intriguing ingenuity in set design and building with tall, rotating columns highlighted by authentic portrayals of historic comic strip sections. All props, costumes, and set pieces stay true to the limited color palette necessary to enhance the show’s comic book feel.
McLean High School puts up a first-rate rendition of Annie. Even without the exemplary quality of the production, the story of a clear-eyed girl with a big dream is sure to capture the hearts of anyone, today or “Tomorrow.”