The matinee audience for Davis Musical Theatre Company's production of 'Annie' (the second show in its 26th season) was filled with children and their parents, all of whom were glued to the action on stage.
It was a near-sellout audience and everyone had a wonderful time.
'Annie,' with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan is, of course, based on the classic comic strip 'Little Orphan Annie' by Harold Gray. The newspaper serial told the story of an orphan girl (played for DMTC by Mariah Maldonado) during the Great Depression.
She was left at the door of an orphanage as a baby 11 years ago, with a note from her parents promising to return. She keeps hope alive and knows that somewhere out there her parents are thinking about her.
Annie is invited to spend the Christmas holiday in the home of the richest man in the world, Oliver Warbucks (Michael Cross), which becomes a life-altering event for her.
With familiar tunes like 'Easy Street' and 'Tomorrow' - in addition to a score of other fun songs - and a cast of adorable little girls (and funny bad guys), this is a show that is perfect to share with those young people in your life.
Enhancing solid performances by many in the large cast, there are a couple of stand-out performances by actors in minor roles...
Little Megan Spangler, who plays the youngest orphan, Molly, in addition to being cute as a button, has a real flair for comedy and brings down the house with her antics. Director Steve Isaacson clearly knew how to make the most of her talents and has done so beautifully.
Also, Eimi Taormina, who plays several small roles, sparked up the stage, particularly with her solo as the 'star-to-be' during the song 'N.Y.C.' She becomes the one to watch throughout the rest of the show, appearing later as radio personality Gert Healy - a role intended for a man named Bert - so her song does not fit comfortably in her vocal range, though she manages it quite well.
Maldonado has a winning personality and good rapport with Cross.
The other orphans - Lizzie Carey as Tessie, Claire Deamer as Kate, Devon Hayakawa as July, Emma Kehr as Duffy and Natalie Month as Pepper - are all quite good and have their choreography down pat.
Cross is outstanding as Warbucks, who doesn't have a clue about the real world, but has a huge heart. It is clear that he grows to love this Little Orphan Annie who has come into his life.
Monica Parisi is the terrible Miss Hannigan, running the orphanage like a concentration camp and whose life is 'plagued with little girls.'
She conspires with her brother Rooster (Jason Markel) and his girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Brittany Bickel) to pose as Annie's parents in order to get the large reward Warbucks has offered.
Markel gives an interesting performance as Rooster. Most actors in that role are tall and thin and try to create the body language of a barnyard fowl. With a bit more weight on him, Markel instead mimics the cartoon's Foghorn Leghorn, and does it well.
Christina Rae is Grace Farrell, Warbucks' secretary, who is obviously secretly in love with him, and who becomes Annie's friend and protector.
Michael Manley has a suitably prominent jaw as FDR and, fortunately, does not try to mimic the Bostonian accent too heavily.
With a cast heavy on women, FDR's cabinet becomes entirely female, though surprisingly they were not given feminine equivalents of the male names (Mary Young, for example, is still Harold Ickes).
Raymond Rae is excellent as the dog, Sandy, and even chimes in with Annie on her signature song 'Tomorrow.'
The scenic design by Steve Isaacson is mostly utilitarian, though Warbucks' mansion is quite lovely.
Jan Isaacson has done a beautiful job of choreography, even finding a few dancers who can tap.
Jean Henderson's costumes are always noteworthy and the look created by Warbucks' staff as they line up across the stage in their black and red uniforms is memorable.
The 15-member pit orchestra even includes a tuba this time, which was quite a surprise and adds a nice depth to the sound of the orchestra.
As we watch the residents of Hooverville and see the depth of poverty of the people attempting to sell apples to make a dime, live in cardboard box shanties, and make soup out of pretty distasteful ingredients in order to survive, one can't help but make the comparison with what many are calling our current depression.
It's nice to have an 'Annie' to help us keep our spirits up and instill the hope that the sun will come out 'Tomorrow.'