Ellie Pulsifer &Christopher Swan in Annie. Photo: Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMad
Book by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin
Based on the Comic Strip Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray
Directed by Jenn Thompson
A review by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2023, by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
Well, you certainly know what you’re getting with the Broadway series latest production, now playing at the Kentucky Center. Possibly the most popular musical ever created for the Great White Way, opening in 1977 and revived many times since. It’s a popular community theater and school title and has been filmed a whopping four times (in 1982, 1999, 2014, and 2021). It also spawned three sequels, two on stage and one on film.
Based on Harold Gray’s 1924 comic strip, it tells the story of a plucky orphan who melts the heart of the world’s richest man. The song score is a plethora of classic show tunes, and it’s difficult not to sing along!
Performances are great all around, especially Ellie Pulsifer as the title character. That child has a helluva set of lungs, and belts out her tunes with gusto, and in her more dramatic scenes, she makes you cry right along with her.
Christopher Swan is perfect as billionaire Oliver Warbucks, full of bluster on first meeting until he slowly reveals his softer side. As the villainous Miss Hannigan, Stefanie Londino channels Patti Lupone in the best way possible.
As a dog lover, of course, I have to comment on the adorable Addison who plays Annie’s mutt Sandy in a handful of scenes. The audience moaned in delight every time she shows up. (On alternate nights Sandy is played by another dog, Georgie).
The set design by Wilson Shin is amazing to behold, a huge replica of the Brooklyn Bridge surrounding the ever-changing 1930s scenery in a style I would call “fancifully realistic”. Also the costumes by Alejo Vietti perfectly evoke the period atmosphere.
There’s not a lot to dislike in this relentlessly upbeat story. I noticed a couple of sound flubs and a dropped lyric on the opening night performance I attended, but otherwise, it’s a well-oiled machine. The direction of Jenn Thompson keeps things moving and pulls some strong performances from her actors.
It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s a pleasant enough entertainment that you can take your kids to. They don’t make many shows intended for adults and kids these days!
Starring Addison, Nick Bernardi, Bradley Ford Betros, Riglee Ruth Bryson, Krista Curry, Harrison Drake, Laura Elizabeth Flanagan, Georgie, Jataria Heyward, Bronte Harrison, Julia Nicole Hunter, Stefanie Longino, Carly Ann Moore, Kevin Ivey Morrison, Vivianne Neely, John Oliver, Cheyenne Omani, Izzy Pike, Elsie Pulsifer, Kenzie Rees, Leeanna Rubin, Andrew Scoggin, Christopher Swan, Valeria Velasco, Kaley Were, Mark Woodard, and Aidan Ziegler-Hansen
February 14 -19, 2023
Broadway in Louisville
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 14 years. In June 2019 he launched a new company with Jeremy Guiterrez, Theatre Reprise. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.