If you haven’t yet bought a ticket for Annie, do so.
Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production, now on at City Hall, is fantastic, although you should expect a few surprises if you’ve only seen the 1982 film.
This one is based on the 1977 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Familiar tunes Tomorrow and Easy Street are there as well as lesser known chords Hooverville and NYC.
They didn’t make it into the 1982 hit; some scenes similarly ended up on the cutting room floor, others were modified for the big screen. The story follows the adventures of Annie, who lives in a New York orphanage ruled by the nasty Miss Hannigan during The Great Depression.
Although she has many friends, Molly, the youngest orphan, is among them, Annie keeps running away to look for her parents who left her on the orphanage steps when she was a baby. All she has to find them is a note and half of a silver locket.
Her luck turns when she’s chosen to spend Christmas with billionaire Oliver Warbucks.
The lonely businessman is so charmed by her sunny disposition he decides to adopt her, although it’s not enough for Annie who still wants to find her folks.
To help, Mr Warbucks offers a $50,000 reward. Miss Hannigan concocts a scheme with her brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily St Regis to get the cash, having them pretend to be the orphan’s parents. Natalia Tafur and Mya Maries share the lead role in the Bermuda production.
Part of Annie’s great appeal is that children comprise the majority of the cast. I got to see Natalia in action during a rehearsal last Tuesday evening. According to the Gilbert & Sullivan Society programme, the 11-year-old has dreamt of playing Annie “since she can remember”.
It showed. She was enthusiastic in the role of the cheerful, red-headed orphan.
She always looked like she was enjoying herself.
She sang well and, most impressively, you could always hear her (occasional sound system issues rendered quieter children virtually mute, at the beginning of the show). Niyah Burrows, 7, however threatened to steal the show in her stage debut as Molly (a role she shares with Kendall Burrows).
Not only was she darn cute but she did a great job with the singing and acting, most notably during the song You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile when her expressions were pure comedy. Phillip Barnett did an outstanding job as Oliver Warbucks. The Gilbert & Sullivan veteran has appeared in Beauty and The Beast, Into the Woods and Anything Goes.
He sang beautifully and it was lovely to watch him dance with Natalia, who was half his size.
Jennifer Osmond-Campbell also did well as Miss Hannigan although she played the character a little softly. Miss Hannigan lacked bite; she seemed more pathetic than anything else.
My 11-year-old daughter said she just didn’t seem scary.
But maybe that’s okay. Watching Ms Osmond-Campbell’s portrayal I suddenly felt sorry for Miss Hannigan in a way I never did as a kid.
Who wouldn’t take to drink with a bunch of little girls constantly screaming in their ear, stamping on their feet and tossing dead rats at them? The Annie score was as catchy as ever and Nina Jones’s choreography was spot-on.
The scene with the song You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile seemed complicated to me — different dancers doing different things — but the children appeared to pull the moves off with ease. The musical also brought in something that the 1982 movie did not — The Great Depression.
Annie is a product of her time, and you see that much more clearly in the stage production. A lot of the scenes and songs that were cut from the film really illustrated the time period. The song Hooverville, for example, is about a shanty town named for President Herbert Hoover that was built during The Great Depression by the homeless of New York.
Annie visits it in the musical and is caught in a police raid and taken back to the orphanage.
As far as our dog-loving family was concerned, the only serious glitch with Annie was having Sandy in so few scenes. The stray that Annie rescued is everywhere in the original show, she even takes him with her when she goes to live with Mr Warbucks. In the Bermuda version, Sandy appears less than a handful of times.
“What’s Annie without Sandy?” my daughter grumbled.
Apparently Gilbert & Sullivan struggled to find the right dog and, fearing they wouldn’t find one in time, slashed most of Sandys scenes. A Shiba Inu rescued them in the end. All in all though, the show makes for great entertainment and you’ll be humming Annie tunes for days afterward.
• Annie is on at the Earl Cameron Theatre until Saturday with nightly performances at 7pm and a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets, $55, available at www.ptix.bm