Disclaimer: Leaping Lizards! I received two tickets for Annie through a partnership with the Tampa Bay Bloggers and the Straz Center for the purpose of this review. All the opinions are my own.
When the Straz Center invited me to the opening night performance of ANNIE, I couldn’t resist seeing it for a third time.
I originally experienced ANNIE on Broadway as a child and I have such fond memories. Of course, I also loved the 1982 film starring Carol Burnett and the 2014 reboot with Jamie Foxx, both equally entertaining.
Read my previous review, Ten Life Lessons I Learned from Annie.
ANNIE has been delighting audiences for nearly 50 years and as a classic musical, it’s still winning over audiences. On Tuesday evening, it tickled me to see the next generation of lifelong Annie fans. A sea of crimson took over the Straz as ANNIE fans young and old wore red to demonstrate their love for the scrappy orphan.
For those of us who grew up singing all the songs and reciting the lines by heart, seeing Annie again feels like visiting with an old friend. “Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!”
For those who may not know the plot, The story follows Annie (Ellie Pulsifer), a young orphan who dreams of finding her parents. When Annie becomes adopted by billionaire Oliver Warbucks, Annie is finally able to experience the love and happiness she has always dreamed.
For nearly five decades, every young person who ever played Annie has had to carry a couple of signature solo numbers including “Maybe” and the most recognizable song, “Tomorrow”. Young Miss Pulsifer delivers the goods with a perfect performance by bringing a plucky Annie to life with her incredible pipes and bright energy.
Of course, the musical numbers in Annie are some of the most iconic in theater history, and the cast does a wonderful job of breathing new life into timeless characters, including Miss Hannigan (Stefanie Londino), the woman audiences love to hate. “WE LOVE YOU, MISS HANNIGAN!” Londino combines the right combination of bitter sour puss facial expressions, slapstick comedy and outstanding vocals to bring a beloved villain to life.
For me, the true litmus test of an ANNIE cast is how well Miss Hannigan, Rooster Hannigan (Nick Bernardi) and Lily (Krista Curry) perform “Easy Street”. With hinging hip thrusts and a whole lot of shimmying, the three knock it out the park to make even Ludon, Fitch and Erwin proud.
The rest of the cast also delivers with standout performances from Christopher Swan as Daddy Warbucks and Julia Nicole Hunter as Grace Farrell.
The young girls who play Annie’s friends at the orphanage truly shine in “It’s the Hard Knock Life”, another fan favorite; however, Molly (Bronte Harrison) might be my favorite orphan next to Annie. Although, Sandy (Addison) always steals the show whenever he steps onto the stage.
Overall, the ANNIE cast beautifully brings a classic heartwarming and uplifting musical to life that still entertains audiences of all ages.