Anthony Warlow and Lilla Crawford cavort as Oliver Warbucks and Annie in… (Joan Marcus )
"Annie" first leaped from newspaper comics pages to the Broadway stage in 1977, not pretending to be anything but a cartoon come tunefully to life. Director James Lapine's new revival of the musical by Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan centered on the plucky Great Depression-era orphan and her lovable canine companion aims to appeal to grown-ups as well as kids by going for a bit more naturalism and emotional realism.
Ben Brantley in the New York Times didn't buy into it, questioning the results as Katie Finneran tried to turn the villainous orphanage proprietress, Miss Hannigan, into something less hateful, while Anthony Warlow sought more complex emotions as the tycoon who falls in love with the little heroine. "You don't feel like hissing this Miss Hannigan, which adds an addling ambivalence to the show," he wrote, and "once you think of Warbucks as a real person, his blossoming love for little Annie can register as a bit creepy in the age of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.'" But he found the mutt fetching, and Lilla Crawford "pretty close to perfect in the title role."
Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal said he doesn't think highly of the show per se -- "the only way to make it worth seeing is to stage it so well as to paper over it's lack of distinction" -- but he thinks Lapine has done exactly that in a "fabulous" production that suggests the veteran director "is a theatrical alchemist who has the power to turn tinsel into solid gold."
Newsday's Linda Winer rates the story and music more highly, and waxed enthusiastic about today's revival of the show highlighted by the signature hit "Tomorrow" -- "Lapine's handsome yet lovable vision finds the emotional core without losing the cartoon magic."
Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post said she's an admirer of both the musical and this "kitsch-free and elegant" production, which she said was highlighted by the girl-hugging-dog staging of "Tomorrow" using the Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop: "the scene is both deeply felt and beautiful to look at." But she wasn't sold on the bid to make Miss Hannigan's motivations and feelings more complex: "the show is off-kilter if we don't buy that this embittered woman really hates her charges."
Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News also thought Finneran's more complicated take on Miss Hannigan was problematic: "she works very hard...It shows and the role shrinks as a result." But he's another "Annie" fan, and came away pleased: "If this take seldom crosses the line into something must-see special (it doesn’t), even a simply good production of “Annie” offers rewards."
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