REVIEW: Annie (Broadway in Chicago)

A familiar show for kids of all ages


Broadway in Chicago presents:



Book by Thomas Meehan
Music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Marin Charnin
directed by  Martin Charnin
thru January 24th at the Auditorium Theatre

review by Aggie Hewitt

anniecast3_minimized In this dark re-imagining of the Broadway classic Annie, executive producer Kary M. Walker gives us an in-your-face look at the cold realities of depression era life, exploring big business, child abuse and of course the vague references to Annie’s Electra Complex buried deep within the play’s subtext.

Just kidding! It’s Annie! Shiny, happy Annie. The 1977 musical about the spunky little red head who’s prediction that “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow,” actually comes true.

This play means different things to different people. To kids who go to see it, it must be a great night. They came to the Auditorium Theatre on the night of the Annie Chicago premier dressed in white tights and pink coats, ready for a night at the theater, and I doubt they were disappointed. Lynn Andrews’ hilariously annieandsandy_minimizedcruel and pathetic Miss Hanigan was a stand out, and her clownish rendition of “Little Girls” was a highlight.

In kid’s entertainment, the children on stage are more appealing to the parents than the little ones in the audience. Of course kids like seeing other kids with grown up jobs, like acting in a big budget musical. They also like stories they can relate to, that are about children. But as far as the cutesy singing and dancing in Annie, that’s tailored to adult taste. Annie is an adult impression of an ideal child, as are her fellow orphans. For the adults who watch Annie, the kids are the best part. In this production, Madison Kerth is a confident Annie with a powerful singing voice and a very good actress as well. The children perform “A Hard Knock Life” with frustration and that adorable, Annie-esque gallows humor for kids, which has made this show a funny hit for 32 years. And the stand out of the whole production is the super cute seven year old Mackenzie Aladjem, playing the youngest orphan-girl, Molly. With her messy brown hair and her runt-of-the-litter quality, this little thing stole every scene she set foot in.

madisonsydneyandsiara_minimized anniecast_6
zanderlynnandcheryl_minimized annieandmolly_minimized

The two black sheep in the audience that night were companion and me, who both long ago traded pink coats and white tights for Marc Jacobs knock offs and black leggings. During intermission, my friend turned to me and said, “I want to see what happened before Annie. What did Daddy Warbucks do that was so bad he needed to bring an orphan home for the good P.R?” Twenty-Somethings in 2010 may have trouble trusting Annie—The world famous musical who’s original Broadway production made 22 million dollars. We see Daddy Warbucks (played here by David Barton) as a weird combination of Woody Allen and Rupert Murdock. But it’s best for guys like us to check our cynicism at the door, or if that’s not possible just not go. It’s to easy to be cynical about a show like this. Its fun for kids, and it’s shiny and bright. The actors hit their marks and sing like birds. It’s Annie, the same Annie you remember from when you were a kid. This play is not necessarily regarded as a children’s show, it’s more a musical that kids will love. At this point, Annie is something for families and hard core musical fans. There is nothing wrong with that.

Rating: ★★★


all all pictures by Peter Coombs


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REVIEW: The Artist Needs A Wife (side project)

Cohesive set adds clarity to an otherwise jumbled script

Freud stabs painting

the side project presents: 

The Artist Needs a Wife 

by Jesse Weaver
directed by
Carolyn Klein
thru February 14th (ticket info)

review by Ian Epstein

The side project’s production of The Artist Needs a Wife, by Jesse Weaver, tells the claustrophobic tale of Freud and Mott (played by John Ferrick and Chris Hainsworth).  Freud and Mott are two older, similar looking, starving artist types.  The duo lives in a decrepit hovel that doubles as a garden level apartment with walls so leaky, rusty, and paint-smeared that the canvas of Freud’s many-year masterpiece looks like a natural extension of the wall itself.  His muse is a woman named Whore (Allison Cain).  If she hadn’t dried up at the same pace as Freud’s inspiration to paint, the pair might’ve produced something like a de Kooning together.  Instead, there’s a lot of struggling. 

In fits and starts, Freud and Mott come and go, looking for a touch of Michelangelo’s genius at the bottom of a box of corn flakes or hidden among the pages of a Polish mail-order bride catalog.  When they don’t find inspiration in these places, they make bold dramatic gestures: stabbing the empty box of cornflakes to the wall with a carving knife or tearing the apartment to pieces.  And in a moment rife with dramatic possibility, one even orders the redheaded bride that the other was eyeing in the catalog.  Suddenly the image in the catalog is flesh, and Whore has competition in the form of a sexy little redhead (Ann Sonneville) with a thick stutter.

Katja with knife at Mott's throat Mott punches Whore

All of this sounds great, but the script feels like a sprawling rough draft with too little knowledge of its many subjects to be either funny or serious.  It reaches towards the kind of tension that builds up in the back and forth of a Pinter exchange supplemented with a healthy dose of the absurd – but it doesn’t grab hold of anything.  There isn’t a particularly developed stage vocabulary for lack of inspiration so this prominent thematic thread is hard-pressed to hold an audience’s interest for what feels like an unending two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes.  Whenever passage of time comes up, the actors dismiss it with affected lists — a trait that might work if the actual chronology of the characters were made legible anywhere (the walls, the plot, their intimacy).   There are words misused without intending to be, confusion about Polish being written in Cyrillic (which it isn’t), and profanity that reads like a loud placeholder for what a truly ticked-off down-and-out artist might yell.  All of this leaves the audience excusing too much of the playwright’s shorthand to enjoy the show.

William Anderson‘s set, with its moldy colors, its cramped, cockeyed amenities, and its fragmented ceiling tiles may be the only piece of this production that strikes a tone appropriate to the subject matter.  It is especially admirable for its clarity, economy, and versatility. 


FEATURING: Allison Cain, John Ferrick, Christopher Hainsworth, and Ann Sonneville 
CREATIVE TEAM: Carolyn Klein (director) William Anderson (sets), Emily Duffin (props), Miles Polaski (sound), Greg Poljacik (fights), Seth Reinick (lights), and Mieka van der Ploeg (costumes)

Tickets: $18 General, $12 Industry   (with H/R, business card or student ID)
Group discounts available