Western Arts Theatre’s third major show, Annie, is a bright and exciting show, dual cast with an energetic bunch of kids for their first foray into a show that welcomes children to the stage.
A fairly new company, Western Arts Theatre put on Rent last year and cabaret show Love Me Not earlier this year, and pride themselves on being a community based company that produces good theatre and enables opportunities for growth for all participants. This production of Annie is no exception, offering young people in the western suburbs and surrounds the opportunity to be part of an excellent full scale musical.
And what a handful of young talent this production show cases – I was lucky enough to see the Purple A cast, featuring Charli Sandwith as an innocent, endearing and charming young Annie. The cast of 10 (20 in total, but 10 per cast) young actors, all under the age of 18, are full of energy and enthusiasm and the tireless spirit that comes with children – it is almost tiring to watch them. They handle the choreography and movements with passion and grace, and are also the perfect combination of well spoken, well enunciated, and mischievous. A stand out was delightful little Miranda Ferrigno as Molly, who was completely believable as a surrogate little sister to Sandwith’s Annie, charming and cheeky and the baby of the gang.
The adult cast is equally talented, with Antony Steadman a gruff, but caring, empathetic Daddy Warbucks, Saskia Penn as a darling Grace Farrell and Carolyn Hasenkam as a wild and manic but often unintelligible (must be all those tiny bottles of alcohol!) Miss Hannigan. The adults interact and create real chemistry with their younger actors, and are great performing role models for these kids to learn from and work with.
Direction by Chris Anderson is clear and avoids clichés, presenting a fresh production of the show. The show is memorable and well paced, with stand out numbers “It’s The Hard Knock Life” by the orphans, “We’d like to thank you, Herbert Hoover” by the Hooverville-ites, “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”, by Bert Healy and the Boylan sisters, only to be outdone by the orphans in the reprise… the list goes on with strong, well crafted scenes and songs.
The real knockout of the show is the bright, bold choreography by Kai Mann-Robertson. Simple early 1900s inspired moves, with a bit of Fosse and hoofing and a bit of tap dancing, the choreography is percussive, and uses props and the covers the whole stage. It is all catered to the cast and its variety of ages and abilities, and the cast pull off the steps with confidence and ease.
Musical direction by Minna Ikonen is excellent, with the bright brassy band matching the cast for energy and pace every step of the way. No note was out of place.
The wide stage at Maribyrnong College is decked out in a New York city skyline silhouette and backed with a variety of coloured lighting. The set is all modular, so each piece when rotated and moved fits together well, and features clever use of openings and windows, and a nice (but slightly messy) piece of shadowing and back lighting in the opening number. The lighting sets the tone during the overture, where the cast act out the back story of Annie, and through lighting the space is transformed, so it’s a little disappointing some of the cues are a bit slow or messy.
This magnificent performance of Annie was a wonderful introduction to my first time seeing the show, and plays until the 2nd October at Maribyrnong College. Tickets at: https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=216982