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Review: Jane Lynch Joins the Cast of “Annie”

June 18th, 2013 Comments off

The Broadway Blog’s editor Matthew Wexler is hopeful that the sun will come out tomorrow now that Jane Lynch has joined the cast of Annie. Looks like it’s partly cloudy…

Jane Lynch as Miss Hannigan in "Annie." (photo: Joan Marcus)

Jane Lynch as Miss Hannigan in “Annie.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

Annie was the first “real” musical I ever saw. It was the 2nd National Tour and it starred Marisa Morell (who is now a literary agent and producer). I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday but I remember her name — that is the impact that Annie had on me as a twinkle-eyed musical theater wannabee.

The legacy continues with this past season’s revival and scores of young girls from across the country vied for the little redhead who could. Lilla Crawford won the title role but the show opened to mixed reviews. Ben Brantley of The New York Times, while critical, seemed to caress the show with a gentle hand in light of it’s opening shortly after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City.

Brantley wrote of the director, “It would seem that Mr. Lapine is hoping to introduce at least a tincture of psychological shading to a show that is only, and unapologetically, a singing comic strip. In its first incarnation “Annie” was an unstoppable sunshine steamroller. This version, which flirts with shadows, moves more shakily.”

“The show’s scenic design (by David Korins), which relies largely on two-dimensional cutouts, and choreography (by Andy Blankenbuehler) can come across as sketchy and unfocused,” he summed up. “The dance routines and visual jokes are sometimes presented hesitantly and register only peripherally. And adults in the audience may occasionally feel unsettled by some of the reimagined characterizations on display.”

Now Jane Lynch has stepped into the role of Miss Hannigan. Originally played by Dorothy Loudon (who won a Tony for her performance) and subsequently by Carol Burnett and Kathy Bates, among others, Lynch has her hands full with such villainous pedigree.

I can only image what she might have delivered with a different director and a proper rehearsal process. Towering among the orphans, Lynch undoubtedly has stage presence but it gets lost amid a thin characterization, stiff staging and a clunky set that should have been scrapped before it was built.

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Lilla Crawford as Annie and Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks. (photo: Joan Marcus)

The supporting cast rises to the occasion to keep things chugging along but it is evident that even after running for more than seven months, Lapine’s dismal vision continues to clash with the inherent hopefulness of the source material.

A few gems keep the production buoyant, led by the charming and heartfelt performance of Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks. The Tony Award nominating committee regretfully ignored Warlow’s booming performance and it’s a shame, as his theatrical craftsmanship is one of the show’s highlights.

While the show may be bumpy, the night I saw it there was a five-year-old girl celebrating her birthday in front of me and another young audience member to my right. Both were enraptured throughout and it was a joy to observe them experiencing the magic of Broadway for the first time.

 

 

 

“Annie” Returns to Broadway

November 9th, 2012 Comments off

Lilla Crawford & Sunny in "Annie". Photo by Joan Marcus.

The bitch is back.

OK, technically speaking “Sandy” in Annie is a boy dog but…you get the point. And with a spanking new Broadway revival — which opened last night to solid and at times glowing reviews — the tail wagging charmer and the belting moppet are back to incite more girlish sighs and cynical eye rolls.  I mean, has there ever been a musical more beloved and simultaneously maligned (as everything horrible about relentlessly cheery, vocal chord popping musical theater) than this show? And yet…and yet the songs are damn solid — “Easy Street” is a truly dynamite number — and undeniably a part of our cultural fabric.

Who hasn’t sung “Tomorrow”–either in earnest or in jest? I’ll admit it, there are cassette tapes that exist of an eleven year old me belting out my boy soprano version in my bedroom. These recordings will remain under lock and key until 25 years after my death so don’t bother looking for them…and instead check out these amazing renditions:

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I Love Paul Rudd & More Theater News

June 8th, 2012 Comments off

Paul Rudd Makes the World Go Round on "Sesame Street". Image via YouTube.

Today’s theater news round-up is about Paul Rudd…and some other not as important theater people.

  • My imaginary boyfriend Paul Rudd (Broadway’s Last Night at Ballyhoo and Three Days of Rain) will be returning to the Great White Way this September in Grace, a new play described by producers as an “this enthralling Broadway premiere that asks: are we in control of our lives or is there something else at work?” It will also star Oscar-nominee Michael Shannon and Emmy-winner Ed Asner. But the important thing is Paul Rudd, whom I fell in love with when he played my favorite love object in world literature Mr. Knightley  (only translated from Jane Austen to Beverly Hills) in Clueless. Let’s relive that moment…

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