As the audience full of children is buzzing with anticipation it's hard not to get excited sitting in the seats of Smithtown's Center for the Performing Arts waiting for "Annie" to begin. For most of us, the classic tale of the optimistic orphan changing the lives of everyone she meets holds a very special place in our childhood memories, and with good reason.
Director Daniel Gorman said, "[This show has] a heart that beats louder than any 20-piece orchestra." Thanks to Gorman, that's exactly what this production has – a lot of heart.
Gorman's attention to detail was evident in every step the actors took, from the bits of business breathing life in the talented ensemble to the sweet chemistry created between Annie and Oliver Warbucks. He said there was much work put in with the many children in the cast and it paid off – the orphans were focused and worked very well as a unit, also thanks to the tight and upbeat choreography of Sari Feldman.
Some notable performances include Brianne Boyd as Miss Hannigan. Boyd has fleshed out Miss Hannigan beautifully – with her natural comic timing and powerful rich voice, she is a delight to watch and listen to. As she came to the close of her song "Little Girls," there was distinct, "God, she's good," from an audience member amidst the wild applause.
The spunky Alexa Joseph as Annie is sure to please, especially singing the very famous "Tomorrow," and the heartbreaking, "Maybe." As the children are double casted, Shainah Kleeman also played the character of Annie. Audience member Lory Arem said, "This is my second time seeing the show. Both girls are very good. Shainah just feels a little younger than Alexa. That's the main difference."
Warbucks, played by the talented Patrick O'Connor, is easy to like almost as soon as he steps onstage. He brings warmth to Warbucks that often left me smiling at the end of his scenes. O'Connor makes a nice team with Jennifer Hope, playing Grace Farrell, whose lovely maternal quality helps to keep the rich Warbucks grounded.
Tom Murphy and Alyson Clancy played the comedic duo of Rooster and Lily. Their bold choices, good chemistry and high energy are the cherry on top of this wonderful production.
Musical Director Jackson Kohl does a superb job of preparing this cast of strong voices and leading the nine-piece orchestra behind the set.
Peter Mussared's set complements the story well with the elegance of Warbucks' mansion to the cracks and rags of the orphanage to the colors of New York City. Chris Creevy's lighting design and Ronnie Green's costumes help bring "Annie" to life as well.
"It's just wonderful," said audience member Lory Arem about the theatre. "For the price, it's a great thing to take your kids and grandkids to see a show. I want to expose them to different things, and this theatre allows me to do that."