Dates and Venue 3 - 8 March 2009; Tues – Sat 8pm; Sun 7:30pm + Sat & Sun matinees at 2pm | Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts.

Music Charles Strouse Lyrics Martin Charnin Original Direction Martin Charnin Set Design Ming Cho Lee Costume Design Theoni V. Aldrrdge Lighting Design Ken Billington and Jason Kantrowitz Music Direction Adam Jones

Reviewer John Jane

Annie, inspired by the Chicago Tribune comic strip Little Orphan AnnieTM itself inspired by James Whitcomb Riley's popular 1885 poem has become an American musical theatre staple.

Set in New York city during the “great depression” (Not the one that’s going on now – the last one), its simple storyline juxtaposes life in a Dickensian orphanage with the abundance of Fifth Avenue.

Eleven-year-old Madison Kerth is the latest copper-haired moppet to charm audiences as the infectiously optimistic Annie. She not only very much looks the part of the adorable waif who dreams of eventually of finding her parents, but delivers the show’s feel-good songs with genuine ardour that is sure to put a smile on your face.

Young Madison gets help from the half dozen orphanage kids who are also given starring moments throughout the show. They take full advantage of the occasions to show off their exceptional singing and acting talent. A notable standout is seven-year-old Mackenzie Aladjem, who almost steals the show as Molly.

Lynn Andrews is delightfully slapstick as penurious orphanage matron Miss Hannigan. She manages to make ‘mean’ fun with throw-away quips like “Why any kid would want to be an orphan is beyond me" and her silhouetted conniption on hearing of Annie’s pending adoption is priceless.

Despite being a non-singer, David Barton easily holds his own as Oliver Warbucks, the business baron with a big heart. His solo rendition of “Something was missing” shows that anything is possible if you’re a good enough actor.

The WEAF radio broadcast at the Rockefeller Center that opens the second act is a comedic and musical highlight. The scene harkens back to a more innocent time when folks came by their news and entertainment from the radio. Ricky Pope as radio announcer Bert Healy (who also ably covers the role of Drake the butler) along with sister act, Ronnie, Bonnie and Connie Boylan perform a sparkling rendition of the corny “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

Mikey the dog, a kind of golden-haired terrier-cross certainly deserves a special mention for not missing a single cue – my dog should be that well-trained.

Every element in the show receives strong realization. From Ming Cho Lee’s rolling sets to Theoni V. Aldrrdge’s costume design, the production emphasises quality.

Junior members of Tuesday’s opening night audience obviously found the hummable tunes and the warm and fuzzy story of a plucky survivor coming good appealing. But adults too might find the show’s naively optimistic theme a sure tonic for the current stock market woes.

© 2009 John Jane