The show stars Lilla Crawford as Little “Earnest” Annie. Miss Crawford is an exceptionally talented young lady, with a set of killer pipes. Unfortunately, Mr. Lapine allows her to rush her lines to a degree that she’s stepping on other actors lines. Every line is over delivered. She has adopted a New York-esque accent that is eerily similar to that of Cyndi Lauper. Unfortunately, as the evening wears on, that accent becomes muddled and inconsistent.
As Miss Hannigan, the usually funny Katie Finneran (A Tony-award winner for Promises, Promises and Noises Off) has given Hannigan a creepy, psychotic personality that makes you wonder if she was abused as a child. J. Elaine Marcos as Lily St. Regis gives an inconsistent performance that involves an affected accent and physicality that seems to come and go. Lily’s onstage counterpart, Rooster Hannigan, played by Clark Thorell, lacks the smarminess normally associated with the character. Members of the ensemble in minor roles give buffoonish performances that reek of amateurishness.
Under the choreography of Andy Blankenbuehler (a Tony-Award winner for In the Heights) two of the musical numbers that usually bring down the house, “Easy Street” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” lack precision and momentum. He has also turned the show's finale, “New Deal for Christmas,” into a tap number, a dubious decision that impedes the song’s natural flow as an emotional, uplifting finale.
The scenic design by David Korins is flat and ugly. There is a moment or two of a glimmer of an idea when he mimics the turning of book pages to walk Annie through Daddy Warbucks mansion during “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here,” but for the most part, the set has the flat feel of that of a summer stock production.
There was an odd choice on the part of orchestrator Michael Starobin. He has taken the show’s signature tune, “Tomorrow,” and muddled it with a march tempo. This kills the emotional wallop usually associated with this song.
All of the above issues can be laid at the feet of director Lapine. Choices were made that he either didn’t discourage or, more egregiously, encouraged.
So what was it about Annie that warmed the cockles of my heart? It’s two things actually. First, Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks gave an honest, simple, and endearing performance. His delivery of “Something Was Missing” was lovely, my favorite number in this production. And secondly, it’s that lovable pound puppy, Sunny, as Sandy, Annie’s canine companion. Let’s face it, a cuddly four-legged friend makes anything better, but not even Sunny can save this dog.