THEATHER REVIEW (WSAU) For a young actress with a big voice, there’s no better role in musical theater than Annie. Trouble is, good luck finding someone good enough to do it. Annie is supposed to be 11. Rare is the real-life 11 year old who can know all the songs (Annie has ten of them), learn all the lines (she’s on-stage in every scene except two), and look plucky and cute – not annoying-- when she says “Ohhh boooy!” a half-dozen times. Truth is we’re really looking for a Michele Lea-type who’s older but can be made to look right playing a young person.
But you’d need a very dark heart to say a foul word about Emily Cattanach as Wausau Community Theater’s Annie. The Wausau-West freshman is a good singer, has command of her part, and looks a bit like an orphan who is spoiling for a fight at just the right times. Add in 10 more of the cutest ragamuffins in town, and we have a good start.
Oliver Warbucks is the one character who’s transformed during the play – and Dan Drenk gave us a fine performance as the millionaire… no billionaire… whose heart is strangely warmed by the homeless girl he hosts two weeks before Christmas. Dan told us during a studio visit that he'd finally found a role where baldness was helpful.
I identify with Bert Healy – he’s the radio announcer who opens Act Two by announcing the big award to find Annie’s parents. His song - “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” - has been a tuck-in time favorite with my children for many years. Whoever plays the role knows that they’ll be upstaged five minutes later by high-stepping little girls gathered around an orphanage radio. The orphans reenacting the radio drama is one of the evening’s high points. And this radio announcer can report that Rob Rasmussen was a fine Bert, and a fine Rooster too.
My 8-year-old daughter will see the show this weekend. It’s a great entry-point to the performing arts for a young child. Many boys and girls will see Annie and will think ‘hey, I want to see more of that,’ and hopefully an adult in their lives will take them to more shows. A few will think ‘hey, I can do that,’ and maybe they’ll go to drama camp or try out for their school play. I suspect my little Rachael will be bubbling inside when she sees Annie. That alone makes this production a blessing.
PREVIEW (WSAU) I know something that you don’t about ‘Sex In The City’ star Sarah Jessica Parker. She’s a really good singer. I don’t think she’s sung publicly since she was a child-star in ‘Annie’ on Broadway in 1979. I saw her as a kid. She was good.
I saw the original Broadway production three times – with the role’s originator Andrea McArdle in 1977, the aforementioned Ms. Parker two years later, and Anne Smith a year after that. All were good.
This is one of those shows that succeeds or fails in its casting. If you don’t have a good Annie, the evening’s performance never takes flight. The 1997 revival of Annie was not good, in part because then 8-year-old Brittney Kissinger wasn’t ready for the roll. Nell Carter, who did a turn as orphanage-leader Miss Hannigan, carried the production as far as a supporting-actress could.
If you love the theater, this is one of those gateway shows that can spark the interest of youngsters in the audience. Take a kid with you. They’ll bubble when Annie sings “Tomorrow”. They’ll feel sad as orphans long for their parents. They’ll feel the fun when the kids since and dance while listening to an imaginary radio. Even in the late summer, we’ll recreate Christmas in the final act. I took my oldest daughter to a touring production of “Cats” 8 years ago; she now wants to go to every play I can get tickets to. This weekend, my youngest daughter goes to her first play. I think Annie will do the trick.
The Wausau Community Theater’s production of “Annie” is at the Grand Theater at Thursday at 6:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, and Sunday at 2:00pm. Emily Kattanach is going to be a very good “Annie”.
I’ll post a review after tonight’s performance.
Here’s an archive of WSAU theater reviews:
LEGALLY BLONDE – THE MUSICAL (Aug 2, 2012)
A CHORUS LINE (Jun 21, 2012)
DR DOLITTLE (Mar 17, 2012)
A CHHRISTMAS CAROL – 2011 (Dec 18, 2011)
MAN OF LAMANCHA (Nov 6, 2011)
DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (Oct 23, 2011)
OKLAHOMA(Sept 8, 2011)
EVITA (Aug 8, 2011)
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (Jul 23, 2011)
SMOKEY JOES CAFE (Jun 23, 2011)
KISS ME, KATE (Apr 17, 2011)
HELLO DOLLY! (Mar 11, 2011)
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Feb 18, 2011)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL - 2010 (Dec 17, 2010)
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (Nov 4, 2010)
PIRATES OF PENZANCE (Sept 17, 2010)
MISS SAIGON (Aug 8, 2010)
RENT (June 18, 2010)
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (Mar 5, 2010)