REVIEW: Delightful story of orphan Annie on stage at Huron Country Playhouse

Dominique Le Blanc as Annie and Company

Jennifer Cox is a communications graduate from the University of Windsor who is now a computer trainer for the Avon Maitland District School Board. She lives in Clinton with her husband and two children. She writes when she can find the time. This summer, she is reviewing Huron Country Playhouse and The Blyth Festival for Bullet News Huron.


Who needs the hassle of high-priced big city theatre when you can get the same calibre of entertainment right here at home? Annie opened last night at the Huron Country Playhouse and it was a delight.

Set in the FDR era, it is the familiar touching story of orphan Annie who wins the heart of billionaire Oliver Warbucks and spreads her optimistic outlook to everyone she encounters. Despite being abandoned as an infant on the doorsteps of a New York City orphanage, 11-year-old Annie still wears the half of the locket left to her by her parents and has never given up hope that they will return for her. She is the strong-willed leader of a group of orphan girls living with mistreatment and misery in Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Annie gets lucky one day when Miss Farrell, assistant to billionaire Oliver Warbucks, arrives at the orphanage to choose a girl to take to the mansion for the Christmas holidays. Even though the lonely-at-the-top Warbucks ends up wanting to adopt Annie, he agrees to use his influence and money to help Annie find her real parents.  A plot to steal away with Annie and the reward money by Miss Hannigan and her sinister brother almost succeeds but Warbucks catches them in their act and justice prevails.

Directed by Alex Mustakas, the musical production Annie is a show stopper filled with a talented, energetic cast.

Dominique Le Blanc was the quintessential Annie mix of spunk and cute and her powerful voice easily handled the trademark song Tomorrow. I especially enjoyed the Annie number, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here with Grace and the rest of the Warbucks staff.

Charlotte Moore as the tipsy orphan hater Miss Hannigan was hilarious and frightful with her loud whistle, barking orders to those little girls. The orphans were as cute as buttons, showing amazing singing and dance talent. The performance of Hard Knock Life was perfect and Fully Dressed, the orphans’ adorable version of the famous Oxydent radio ad by the Boylan Sisters, was one of my favourite numbers. The girls were all completely endearing with their orphan rag clothes, messed up hair and smiles and energy that lit up the theatre. An interesting side note: as so many talented local young girls were interested in being in the play, there are three groups in the Annie Children’s Chorus who will rotate performances during the three-week run of the show.

Keith Savage as the infamous cocky Rooster was hilarious, in his pin-stripe suit, joking and strutting all over the stage. He and his dame Lily, played by Melissa Thomson-Hicks, made a great conniving couple. The Easy Street number including Moore, is a huge hit, equally funny and obnoxious.

I loved listening to the smooth Oliver Warbucks, played by Victor A. Young, and Grace Farrell, the caring personal assistant to Warbucks, played by Jayne Lewis. One of my favourite lines comes when Warbucks doesn’t have a clue how to handle the emotional little girl so he says, “I’ll get her a brandy,” and stalks off, returning to see that she has been comforted by the staff and Miss Farrell and ends up drinking the brandy himself.

I could see the scenes from the Annie movie as the cast sang and danced but this show really held its own. The choreography by Gino Berti was impressive and performed with easy precision by the ensemble. The set design by Jean-Claude Olivier was a perfect complement with backdrops of city scenes, including one under a city bridge, and of course the impressive Warbucks mansion with showy pieces of art and vintage radios and telephones. The costumes were impressive as well, from the rags of the homeless group under the bridge to Miss Farrell’s classy dresses and of course the infamous little red dress worn by Annie in the final scenes. And I can’t forget the commanding four-legged star of the show, Sandy, played by the Nova Scotia Retriever, Chedabucto Bluenose.

You will not want to miss this Annie production at the Huron Country Playhouse. It plays until Sept. 1. In fact, I might find an excuse to go see it again.

Sponsored by Complete Interiors & Design, Funny 1410AM, ezRock 97.5 and BX93.

Tickets are available for purchase at the Huron Country Playhouse box office or by calling 519-238-6000 or toll free at 1-855-372-9866. Tickets may also be ordered online.

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