When you’ve seen Annie as many times as I have, it’s easy to dread another couple of hours spent with that plucky, Depression-era redhead, she of the ringlet curls and unbounded enthusiasm. Luckily and thankfully for me, BDT Stage delivers its usual superlative effort and with it an Annie to be remembered.
As every production of Annie does, it all starts and ends with the actress playing Ms. Leapin’ Lizards herself. As is customary when utilizing child actors over a long performance schedule, two actresses (Lily Gruber and Darcey Keating) will be playing Annie during the BDT Stage’s run of the show.
I had the pleasure of witnessing Darcey Keating in the role of the li’l orphan, and from the first notes that rang from her, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow! This young woman has some pipes on her!” Keating’s powerful singing voice floored me. I can honestly say that I have never experienced a stronger vocal performance from an Annie. Keating’s acting chops are commendable as well, but it’s her musical talent that will blow you away.
Next to Annie, the most critical character in the show is her billionaire benefactor, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. Who else but BDT Stage veteran Wayne Kennedy could fill that role? The answer is no one.
A longtime favorite of mine, Kennedy is often relegated to supporting roles. Here, as the male lead, he showcases both his versatility and his range. Kennedy usually relies on a jovial, borderline jokey portrayal of the characters he’s asked to play.
When Warbucks is introduced in Annie, however, he is a gruff, no-nonsense businessman and bachelor with seemingly no history interacting with children. Kennedy nails this out-of-his-wheelhouse portrayal without even breaking a sweat. As Warbucks warms to Annie and Kennedy is allowed to ease into his more typical performance style, the transition is flawless, which makes Warbucks’ evolution from captain of industry to caring parent that much more believable and touching.
Kennedy and Keating receive tremendous support from an exceedingly able cast of BDT Stage regulars and newcomers. Annie’s fellow orphans (a rotation of: Zoe Campion, Prugh Dunfee, Anna Eppe, Summers Filion, Audrey Fischer, Alexandra Foster, Sophia Hammons, Emma Hecht, Zoe Malin, Katie Phipps, Cammy Tow and Meaghan Zeff) attack the vocals and choreography of the classic number, “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” with gusto.
Annie Dwyer delivers as the girls’ deliciously evil “caretaker,” Miss Hannigan, and Scott Beyette literally crows as her ne’er-do-well brother, Rooster. Brian Burron earns laugh after laugh as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. And yes, Annie improbably features FDR in a supporting role.
Speaking of improbable, in case there is anyone out there unfamiliar with Annie, the story goes something like this. Annie sneaks away from the purgatorial orphanage in search of her parents. After hanging in a Hooverville and befriending a stray dog, she’s pinched by the cops and bounced back to Miss Hannigan’s.
Almost immediately, she’s plucked from poverty and invited to spend the weeks leading up to Christmas at Oliver Warbucks’ mansion. Just as Warbucks begins warming to the little-orphan-that-could, Annie’s parents show up out of the blue to reclaim her… and the sizeable reward Warbucks has offered for their return.
But are they really Annie’s parents? Will Annie end up with them or Warbucks, who now loves her like the daughter he never knew he wanted? Whatever happened to that stray dog? And will Annie somehow play an instrumental role in bringing the country out of the Great Depression?
Amidst and after all-time great songs like “Tomorrow,” “Easy Street” and “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here,” all will be revealed. Whether you’ve seen Annie enough times to sing along or it’s your first visit with this merry moppet, you’re bound to love this Annie.
On the Bill: Annie. BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, www.bdtstage.com. Tickets are $43 and up. Through Feb. 23.