Our audiences LOVE Annie, and so does The Oregonian, calling the holiday show "a perfect choice" and "a generous, homegrown holiday gift to Portland". Click 'more' to read the full review!
OREGONIAN REVIEW: Annie a homegrown holiday gift to Portland
-Holly Johnson, Special to The Oregonian
It’s a treat to see Annie performed by familiar local actors in a children’s theater setting. One of the few Broadway shows that is a children’s musical, first and foremost, the 1977 Broadway hit is a perfect choice for the Northwest Children’s Theater. 

For one thing, it’s got parts for a gaggle of girls from the orphanage, and then there’s the star role every young musical actress certainly covets: that of Annie, who gets to belt out “Tomorrow,” the show’s signature tune, among other numbers. Here, Annie is sweet-faced seventh-grader Annabel Cantor, peeking out from behind her auburn bangs. She creates a demure yet spunky Annie, a savvy politician if there ever was one. It’s Depression-era America, and Annie has us all rooting for her as she moves from threadbare orphanage to the palatial New York City residence of Oliver Warbucks, (played By Erik James) the richest man in the poverty-stricken country.

What director/choreographer Sarah Jane Hardy lacks in fancy, movable set designs — the kind you see with touring productions — she makes up for in arranging the actors onstage (just about everyone is used during the crowd scenes). Designer Jeff Seats has fashioned a marvelous art-deco backdrop for Daddy Warbucks’ house and a warm-toned painted set for the bare-bones orphanage, but we don’t get the upscale New York City backdrop. Instead, snow falling on the smartly costumed crowd singing “N.Y.C.” takes care of the visuals nicely.

And although many of the teens from the company’s school may be too young for the small parts they play, we quickly accept them as homeless people, household servants and President Roosevelt’s cabinet members. One young performer in particular stands out: Andrew Norlen really nails his character, Bert Healy, the rosy-cheeked, relentlessly cheerful emcee of the radio show, “The Hour of Smiles.”

Adult actors are well-cast, too. NWCT staff member Melody Bridges is a natural for Miss Hannigan, the world-weary alcoholic head of the orphanage who comes from a criminal background, shuffles in and out of the place with indifference and blows a whistle every time things get out of hand — and even just when she feels like it. It’s the cameo part of the musical, and Bridges has a good time with it, merrily going round the bend with “Little Girls,” a number lacking musicality made up for with comic acting. She’s even better in “Easy Street,” when her crooked brother Rooster (John Ellingson) and his sleazy girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Elizabeth Gibbs) drop in to extol the virtues of breaking the law (Hardy offers some of her best choreography here).

Ellingson and Gibbs create cartoon characters, in a sense, he with his perennial snarl, and she with her squeaky voice. Shana Targosz has created great costumes throughout, but she dressed these two with particularly  stunning effect, he in suspenders, fedora and oily, sculpted hair, she in a fluffy flower-print dress and oversized blond wig.

James’ Daddy Warbucks is more playful than austere. When things are going well, he does a little dance reflexively. Blaine Palmer, with his sharp features and strong stage presence, suits a handful of small roles, including President Roosevelt and a no-nonsense New York cop. And as Grace, Warbucks’ personal assistant, Genevieve Andersen sharply sketches the good blonde in the story, all charm and benevolence, with strong vocal skills as well.

This “Annie” may not come from New York, but it’s a generous, homegrown holiday gift to Portland.

The show runs two hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.


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