Book by Thomas Meehan

Music by Charles Strouse

Lyrics by Martin Charnin

at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre

April 7-12, 1998


Reviewer Ed Farolan

Annie is the kind of a musical you go to in order to uplift your spirits. No wonder this musical is still around after 20 years, and I believe it will be around for the next 200 years.

Why is this so?

Because it’s a simple, touching story about being kind and compassionate. It’s a story about how the innocence of children can touch our hearts. And it’s a story about how the cold-hearted rich of this world can change and become compassionate fools like Daddy Warbucks.

With a stellar cast, this musical took off with comicity and vibrancy from start to finish. The talents of veteran film and TV actors par excellence Sally Struthers (Mrs. Hannigan) and Conrad John Schuck (Oliver Warbucks) carried the musical to perfection. And there was, of course, the big little star of the show, Little Orphan Annie played by nine-year old Brittny Kissinger who stole everyone’s hearts, including President F.D.R. (Raymond Thorne) with her song “Tomorrow”. Little Molly (6-year old Victoria Pontecorvo) also stole the hearts of the audience with her lines, songs and dance routines.

The set was beautifully designed and well-coordinated in scene changes. The lights, particularly the spotlights, were fabulous; and the orchestra, conducted by Sue Anschutz, was wonderful.

Annie is a musical based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie, with her popularly known line, "Leapin' Lizards!" .This production has been appropriately timed for the Easter season here in Vancouver, although it takes place at Christmas time during the depression era in the United States in 1933. But it’s the kind of show that’s timeless because of its universal theme of love and compassion. But more so,  because it's simply a fun musical for the entire family to see.

Young director Bobby Garcia, who is doing his MFA at UBC, put on an interesting staging of Migdalia Cruz's adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca's House of Bernarda Alba. I spoke to United Players' Artistic Director, Andree Karas, before the opening night's show, and she said that Lorca's play was originally slated for production. However, when Bobby Garcia presented her this adaptation, she liked it better. Garcia who has directed Film, Television and Theatre in both Asia and the USA was impressed by this adaptation which he saw in LA, and brought it to the attention of Karas to premiere here in Canada.

Migdalia Cruz, who was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, has written over 28 plays which were produced in the USA and abroad. What she has done with Lorca's La Casa de Bernarda Alba is enhance the play by adding other aspects of Lorca's output, particularly his poetry, music and puppetry. In one scene, Adela is in green and she sings Lorca's popular poem Verde que te quiero verde. In another scene, she incorporates puppetry, and Director Garcia goes one step further and uses the Bali shadow-play technique.

Cruz also sets her adaptation in 1895 Cuba bringing in the revolutionary leadership and death of Cuba's national poet and hero, Jose Marti, who wrote the lyrics of the popular song Guantanamera. I was impressed particularly by the creative mise-en-scene which Bobby Garcia put on: a donut-like stage platform where the actors walked, sat and slept on; the Venetian blinds that protected them from the hot Cuban or Andalusian sun; the Brechtian approach where actors sat on the sidelines while waiting for their cues to go on stage; the scene outside the house, in the garden of dust (and you could see real dust) and wilted flowers, where Adela did many of her scenes; and finally, the deaths of Maria Josefa and Adela which happened on scene as opposed to the more traditional Aristotelian off-scene deaths in the original Lorca play.

Cruz in her adaptation goes even further and gets Maria Josefa and Adela resurrected at the play's conclusion throwing in the theme of women's liberation from repression which in fact reflects the main theme of the Lorca play. Garcia uses bright spotlighting on both these women in the last scene to convey this message.


Copyright Ed Farolan. 1998