Annie originally opened on Broadway in1977 and ran for seven years. Music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan, this popular musical has been a favourite amongst both professional and non-professional companies alike. In Australia, there have been four professional productions, the last in 2012.
MDMS have had a rough run over the past few years and have had to rebuild and refocus the company. It’s been three years since their last big show of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
It’s always great to see our local non-professional companies succeed, and it’s with open arms I welcome MDMS back into the foray of theatre in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. It is also great news that I’ve just read that their current season has sold out, congratulations.
Now MDMS are back and successful, let us hope they can tweak a few things to make our experience a little more enjoyable.
Having never been to the Melba College Theatre at Melba College, I did not really know where to park, and the block where we had to park was pitch black and no one really knew what to do. It would be handy to have a couple of people there with torches directing people where to park. They could also advise people where the theatre is. It’s tucked away behind a construction zone and not visible from the road. Some extra lighting outside the theatre also would not go astray.
Director Helana Chanya along with choreographer Claudia Chanya keep the blocking and choreography simple, though sometimes a bit too simple. Just because you have a cast who are not the best dancers, you can always have them doing other things instead of just standing there or doing a box step.
Musical director Tash Dyson was not seen for the entire evening, not by the audience or the cast. I have been through the program from cover to cover and can’t see a mention of an orchestra. I have been led to believe that the music provided was by backing tape. I understand the costs involved in having an orchestra, but to leave the cast without a conductor is a mistake. A mistake, which was more than obvious in “NYC”. I’m not sure if the actor couldn’t hear the backing track or forgot the words, but he was really lost. This was my queue to look for a monitor with that familiar face waving a baton for the cast to keep in time and get their entrances right. I couldn’t see one anywhere. Even if you choose not to have an orchestra, please support your cast with a conductor who can help them with music entrances and cut offs.
The sets used were very simple yet effective and the backdrop for Warbucks’ mansion was stunning. The lighting design by Caleb Lindner was suitable for the piece.
The cast on whole did a great job and gave it everything they had. Lisa Sully as Miss Hannigan has a big voice and certainly captured the middle-aged, single, tormented person who runs the orphanage really well. John Leahy as Daddy Warbucks let opening night jitters get the best of him on several occasions, but I’m sure he’ll settle into the role as the run progresses. Bethany Angelin as Grace Farrell has a lovely singing voice and her scenes with Annie were very touching. The show lifted to another level when Cale MacLaren and Chloe-Dee McGillivray as Rooster and Lilly entered. They both had great comedic timing and “Easy Street” was one of the show’s highlights. The cast were well supported by a hard-working ensemble. Brayden Taylor as both Drake and Bert Healey was a breath of fresh air, along with Ashely Owen as the Star-To-Be. It’s a pity there weren’t larger parts for these talented youngsters.
Twenty-four children were the orphans in this production, with seven of them double cast. Summer Bush as Annie headed up the cast I saw. Bush is a pint-sized ball of energy and with a huge voice. She stole every scene she was in, and has the making of a real life star-to-be.
Rosie Ennis, Eli Licenblat, Molly Duncan, Scarlett DiGregorio, Claire Roberts and Izzy Jones led the orphans to great effect. All had strong singing voices and were very convincing as the unwanted children of New York City.
This production is a lot of fun and MDMS are to be congratulated on a sold out season.