—LEAPIN' LIZARDS! Michelle Creber stars in "Annie" at Gateway Theatre Dec. 9th to 31st.
For its Christmas offering this year the Gateway has chosen to reprise the musical that opened the theatre 26 years ago. Thomas Meehan and Charles Strouse’s Annie, an audience favourite, depends for much of its success on the talents of its young title character. Fortunately, the Gateway has a winning little orphan Annie in Michelle Creber, whose killer voice and adorable (and highly talented!) puppy dog steal your heart. Solid through and through, Johnna Wright’s production is a holiday treat.
Annie and her fellow orphans kick off the show with a rousing “Hard Knock Life,” highlighted by a clever dance routine with buckets on their feet, courtesy of choreographer Kennith Overbey. Timothy E. Brummond makes a strong, attractive Daddy Warbucks, and Nora McLellan pulls out all the comic stops as the grinchy, horny matron of the orphanage, Miss Hannigan. Things really take off when her oddball grifter brother and his girlfriend appear, trying to scam Daddy out of some of his bucks by pretending to be Annie’s long-lost parents. The always excellent Matt Palmer and newcomer Pippa Mackie (watch for her—she’s scintillating) make a killer couple, and their big number, “Easy Street” with McLellan’s Miss Hannigan, is the highlight of the show.
This is a huge production with 30 performers crowding the Gateway stage, plus a ten-piece orchestra under Allen Stiles’ solid musical direction. The ensemble gets to shine in “Hooverville,” an ironically sophisticated analysis of Herbert Hoover’s Depression-inducing economic policies, and the orphans have a great tap routine in the second act. Drew Facey provides a handsome cutout New York City skyline set, and Carmen Alatorre’s costumes are colourful and varied.
Annie won’t change your life—it’s based on a comic strip, after all. But it’s a good-hearted show with excellent entertainment value for the season.