Kelrik Productions is back in action, doing what the company does best — combining the skills of seasoned adult actors with the enthusiasm and energy of young talents on the rise.
This time it’s “Annie,” a feel-good show that will put smiles on the faces of adults and kids alike. Director and choreographer Erik Austin packs a big show into the small space at Unity, with fine sets and plenty of singing and dancing.
Brennan Heil plays Annie this time. She’s a wisp of a girl with a surprisingly big voice and a spunky attitude, just right for the role of the red-haired orphan who hopes her parents will find her, but ends up with Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, one of the richest men in the world. With a curly red wig and her strong voice, she is an iconic Annie as she sings “Maybe” and “Tomorrow.”
Austin has cast some of his “regulars,” and it’s fun to see them grow up and into new roles.
Kelly Barrett, who played Annie three years ago, is now a pretty teenager cast as the sexy, air-headed Lily St. Regis. Christian Clarno is Warbucks this time, and he gives the character an air of sweetness and vulnerability that makes him appealing. Elizabeth Adams is charming as his right-hand girl.
Delilah Shank plays Miss Hannigan, nasty ruler of the orphanage. She’s not as evil as some have played her; here she’s more simpleminded than truly mean. Rooster Hannigan, her brother the crook, is played again with comic enthusiasm by Matthew Ambrose. He, Miss Hannigan and Lily St. Regis are a kick as they sing “Easy Street.”
There are 25 people in the cast, and some of them play multiple roles. The ensemble of orphan girls is fueled with energy as they fill the stage with song and nicely choreographed dance moves in “Hard Knock Life” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” An adult ensemble is excellent in “NYC” and “Hooverville.” Stephen Tosh is musical director.
Sandy the dog is played by a mellow old golden retriever, a real audience pleaser that almost seems to act in one scene. And as Annie belts out her song, the dog is calm. At the curtain call, when the whole cast was singing and the audience was applauding and hooting, the dog yawned.
The story is set during the Great Depression, and the fast-changing revolving sets go from the shabby orphanage to the cityscape of New York to the opulent home of Daddy Warbucks, lavishly decorated for Christmas. It’s amazing how much can be done with the relatively small stage of the auditorium, not only with the sets, but with the musical numbers that are designed to fill but not overwhelm the space. The lighting and sound are good, and there are even some special effects. The costumes, from ragged orphan wear to stiffly formal servants’ clothes, are by Costume Capers.
“Annie” is a show about hope, looking forward and living a dream. The bad guys are more funny than evil, and the music is memorable. It’s a great opportunity for young actors to hone their dancing and singing skills, and an ideal vehicle to introduce kids, so tuned in to electronic entertainment, to the excitement of live theater. And they are likely to leave the theater with a song in their heads.