Super Summer Theatre Begins 36th Season with Annie
There’s a little redhead in the vicinity of Red Rock (Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch) and she’ll be there for the month of June. She has no parents but she’s got a song for every occasion, a loyal dog, and a way of winning over even the most cantankerous curmudgeon.
Of course I mean Annie. The 1924 comic strip, the 1977 Broadway musical and the 1982 motion picture Annie who began as a little orphan and remains an iconic symbol of optimism and generosity – even though she’s pushing 90!
Annie will always be 11, at least on stage, and the perennial orphan will even experience a future revival on Broadway (Fall 2012).
The rags-to-riches tale of an orphan’s rocky road to adoption (by a billionaire, no less) despite scheming swindlers takes place in 1933 New York. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is in the White House and the country is in a Great Depression.
Annie (Jessica Noel Ruettiger) is one of twenty girls living in an orphanage – two, sometimes three to a bed – under the supervision of the boozy, ill-tempered Miss Hannigan (Anita Bean). She hates her job, hates little girls, and has a shady brother named Rooster (Glenn Heath) whose girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Summer Soll) is the very definition of “dumb blond.”
When Grace Ferrell (Kelly Ward-Radan) secretary to billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Chris Mayse) arrives to request an orphan to share Christmas at his fabulous mansion, Annie arranges to be chosen despite Miss Hannigan’s attempts to stop her.
Of course, the adorable orphan charms, sings and dances her way into the hearts of all who meet her and her dog Sandy (Dee Dee, a Labradoodle). Warbucks agrees to help Annie find her parents, offering $50,000 to any couple who can prove that they are. This brings con artists and pretenders out of the woodwork; they are quickly dismissed.
Annie and Warbucks even visit President Roosevelt (Ross Horvitz) and she inspires him with her optimism.
Warbucks decides to adopt Annie himself, until a Mr. and Mrs. Mudge show up claiming to be Annie’s parents. The Mudges resemble Rooster Hannigan and his girlfriend. Is that where they got all of their information about Annie’s past? Will they get away with the swindle?
The musical numbers (there are 14, with five reprises) are lively and sometimes poignant. “Maybe” is a sweet, plaintive wish set to music and performed movingly by Ruettiger. “It’s a Hard Knock Life” performed by a score of young girls is a humorous jolt of a tune featuring synchronized choreography, while the iconic inspirational “Tomorrow” extols the virtue of perseverance.
Then there’s the humorous, campy rendition of “Little Girls” that Anita Bean’s blowsy, loudmouthed Miss Hannigan sinks her teeth into and chews up the scenery with. Bean also camps it up with “Easy Street” featuring Glenn Heath and Summer Soll.
The city literal comes to life and buildings and bridges are costumes in the “NYC” number, led by Chris Mayse, Kelly Ward-Radan and ensemble. Mayse’s booming baritone propels him deftly through “Why Should I Change a Thing?”, “Something was Missing” and “I Don’t Need Anything But You” (with Ruettiger).
“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” performed by Drew Martin, and then again by the orphans, featuring Desiree Williams and Elena Cellitti, starts out as a pleasant period tune and ends up a showstopper when the girls form a Rockette line to finish it off.
The actors are full of energy and enthusiasm. Ruettiger has an impressive voice, sweeter than you’re used to from previous Annie incarnations (both Andrea McArdle and Aileen Quinn could belt out a song). She’s also taller than the Broadway height limit of 4’10” but portrays a delightful, believable Annie.
Mayse and Bean are standouts, and the orphans are sensational with almost all of the characters in pitch perfect form. The lone holdout was Dee Dee the Labradoodle who missed some of her cues; the rather bashful Sandy was still an audience favorite despite (or maybe because of) her gaffes.
Director Terrence Williams tackled the challenge of difficult set changes with musical interludes as the orphanage with its multiple beds had to be set up and taken down several times. Other sets included Hannigan’s office, The White House, a radio stage and Warbucks’ mansion. He’s directed for Super Summer Theatre several times in the past, and it’s easy to see why they keep having him back.
Musical Director Nancy West and Choreographer Amanda Kraft’s talents enhance the vibrant production even further.
Annie is a fun-filled classic that never gets old, just like the little orphan herself. This is one time you’ll see red…and like it!
About Super Summer Theatre ’11:
Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the gate, and can be purchased at the UNLV Performing Arts Box Office, UNLV ticket kiosks at Town Square, Prestige Travel at Lake Mead and Rampart, or online at unlvtickets.com
Guests may bring a blanket or chair for use in general-admission grass seating, suitable for enjoying a picnic or treats from the very reasonably priced concession stand which stays open until 9:00 p.m.
Gates open at 6 p.m. Performances run Wednesday through Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. Please Note: The final show for the 2011 Season is Clarke Peters’ Five Guys Named Moe which will run Thursday through Saturday beginning at 7 p.m.
Spring Mountain Ranch is located 10 miles west of the Charleston/215 exit.
For further information: (702) 594-PLAY (7529) http://www.supersummertheatre.org