Recent Posts

Saturday, November 06, 2010


 Some of the most important memories of my childhood were the (many) times I saw Annie (the first time I saw the show at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles, Annie was played by the talented Marisa Morell). I was completely entranced (obsessed really) by the score, the music and the little girls singing and dancing (I always thought I should have been one of them) - I wore out several copies of the cassette version of the original cast recording and attempted (in vain) to learn how to play the piano score. Andrea McArdle (who in 1977 was the youngest actress nominated for best actress in a musical for playing the title role) was my first musical theatre hero because it was her voice I first heard as Annie on the Original Cast Recording (OCR). I tried so hard to sing like her when friends and I would perform numbers from Annie in my backyard while wearing our Annie dresses. Needless to say, Annie easily became an extremely important piece of my childhood (and undoubtedly countless other little girls)!

(l-r) Melody Hollis, Andrea McArdle & Mikey
Throughout the years, there have been too many times to count that I have seen various stage productions of Annie. For some reason, each production I have seen never seems to be as good as the one before it. One production in particular I saw not too long ago was such a disappointment that I began to think that maybe my memory of the show was far better than the reality. Then, I saw Musical Theatre West’s production of Annie and that all changed. My inaugural visit to Musical Theatre West (now in its 58th season at the beautiful Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center) did not disappoint. To start, my childhood hero, Andrea McArdle returned to the show that made her famous, but this time starring as the villainess, Miss Hannigan. Some 30-plus years after making her Broadway debut as the famous red-headed orphan, it is not difficult or strange to see McArdle return to the show as Annie’s nemesis. Quite the opposite actually – it was easy and refreshing to see McArdle as a more subtle Hannigan (funnier without being too campy). While excellent, McArdle’s performance never outshined that of Melody Hollis (Annie) who was easily one of the best Annies I’ve seen to date. In addition to having a strong, beautifully belt-y voice, there was an effortless spunkiness and nurturing quality to Hollis and an easy chemistry between her and each of her co-stars.

I thought that the chorus numbers were fantastic but never realized how significant the Hooverville number was until the strong performance by this ensemble. The girls who played the orphans – Jena Rosen, Paige Befeler, Alexa Freeman, Maddison Milledge, Danielle Soibelman and Grace Kaufman – were strong and made the ensemble orphan numbers highly enjoyable. As Oliver Warbucks, it was easy to see Jeff Austin as both a gruff corporate billionaire who seemed to naturally soften when in the presence of the talented Melody Hollis.

It is because of McArdle’s performance of Annie on the (OCR) that drew me to the show so many years ago and it is because of her current association with the show that I rediscovered my love for it again. If I were a little girl now, I think Hollis would be the reason I would be drawn to Annie the same way I was drawn to McArdle – her performance was energetic and delightfully sung and is one of the main reasons why this production worked so well.

(l-r) Jeff Austin, Melody Hollis
Annie runs for only 14 performances through November 14 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, CA. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Call for tickets ($30-$80): (562) 856-1999 or
Related Posts with Thumbnails