- Contributing Critic
‘Annie’ continues the 100th season at The Muny in St Louis. The musical set in the time of the Great Depression is about an orphan named ‘Annie’ (Peyton Ella) who is selected by billionaire ‘Oliver Warbucks’ (Christopher Sieber) to stay with him in his mansion for Christmas. Both Ella and Sieber have amazing solos and fantastic chemistry as we follow the plot.
This season at The Muny has been shaky since starting with the casting controversy during the first show “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway”. When a show only runs a week the flow then can make a turn towards the way to a stunning spectacle like ‘Singing in the Rain’. ‘Annie’ continues the stronger productions this national institution has completed through out the last century.
The children’s chorus, called the Muny Kids troupe, worked well together and sounded professional even though it would be most of their debuts. They were lead by an amazing crew making the core girls in the orphanage, including Madeline Domain (Tessie), Samantha Iken (Pepper), Trenay LaBelle (Duffy), and Ana McAlistar (Molly). The cast also included a scene stealing canine ‘Sandy’ (Sunny) who was rescued from a shelter and trained for the 2012 Broadway revival of ‘Annie’.
I found many stand outs in the adult cast. Jennifer Simard filled the large stage with her take on the orphanage mother Ms Hannigan. Her comedic timing was brilliant and solos made the crowd cheer. Britney Coleman is charming as ‘Warbucks’ assistant ‘Grace Farrell’. Jon Rua returns to the Muny stage as Rooster Hannigan with the sly attitude and stage presence fitting the character.
This show in general and production in particular shines with its strong ensemble. Scenes like ‘Hard Knock Life’ and ‘We’d like to thank you, Herbert Hoover’ display the amazing team work of the cast and crew. Jessica Hartman (Choreographer) and John Tartaglia (Director) know how to lead a team.
My only concern is when the production is deemed a ‘children’s show’ is the audience distraction that comes along with the crowd. This show should be a perfect opportunity to teach young audience members some theatre etiquette, but that was not happening the night I saw the show. Remember to audience members, it’s the simple things like not talking through the announcements or overture.
I would recommend ‘Annie’ and The Muny to anyone who wants to enjoy an uplifting story in a beautiful theatre that is a piece of St Louis history. Check Muny.org for tickets and show information.