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…
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.
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.