Sunday December 17th 2017

“ANNIE”

Highly Recommended**** While Broadway has a “new” revival of “Annie”, the rags to riches musical that hits us in our current economic condition, we also have a new and very solid production of this comic strip character turned musical, with a book by Thomas Meehan,Music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, not onstage at our beautiful new suburban Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora. While the people who live in this area prefer not using the word “suburban”, as Aurora is a fairly large “city”, to those who venture from the city itself to place that are not the city, they are termed suburbs. Nonetheless, since the theater was renovated and reopened under the artistic direction of Jim Corti, we have seen many wonderful productions and to be honest, “Annie” is a true feather in their cap.

Under the direction and choreography of the very in demand Rachel Rockwell ( who always gives you your money’s worth), this is a tight production that keeps the two hour plus musical that deals with the depression period of our history, moving smoothly. Doing a play such a sthis one is difficult in that many of the scenes involve “kids” and a “dog” and we all know that kids and nimals are natural born scene stealers. While these kids and the adorable mutt “Sandy” played to perfection by Mikey the dog do take charge during their scenes, they are not overbearing and do not step out of character, allowing their scens to flow with Rockwell’s direction.f you have not been to any of the productions at this glamorous venue that will take you back to the days of theaters that were top notch, you owe it to yourself to get n the highway and take the trip. It is not really that far ( although it is just out of the reach of getting any Jeff Awards or Recommendations, which is good for other theater companies) and well worth the trip for the quality that they bring to audiences.                        

The theater is beautiful, the seats are comfortable and they have a high enough stage that set designer Linda Buchanan has the ability to fly in sets that are amazing. The lighting (Greg Hofmann) and the costumes (Theresa Ham) add to the overall picture Rockwell and company put before us and the projections ( Mike Tutaj) and sound(Jeff Dublinske) along with the props assembled by Joel Lambie make the stage illusions near perfection. Evan Rea’s musical direction  allows every lyric to be heard ( and understood), but what truly makes this production a masterpiece for the entire family to enjoy is the cast of players- from top to bottom, no matter the size of the role, each does their job. Annie is played by the very talented Caroline Heffernan, who at a very young age has been seen on many Chicago stages. She has a solid voice with great range and appears very comfortable on stage. Her co-horts, the orphan girls are a talented group of young ladies. There are several girls playing these roles. For the opener,Emily Leahy, Kayla Rea,Amelia Kuhlman,Hannah Whilock and Peyton Shaffer and the scene stealing adorable Ava Morse played the girls who do the numbers “hard Knock Life” and “Your Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” to thunderous applause.WOW!

In the role of Daddy Warbucks, the wealthy man who takes Annie out of the orphanage to his Park Avenue home and to a new life, we have one of Chicago’s finest actors,Gene Weygandt, and I was so glad that he was allowed to play the role with his hair. In the old comics, Daddy Warbucks was with a clean shaven bald head- now , so many men have that look, it is more natural to have a full head of hair. And guess what? It didn’t matter! His private secretary, Grace Farrell is played by the adorable Emily Rohm. As the play progresses, we see Warbucks change from the headstrong money grubber to a man who cares about not only Annie, but his staff, including Ms Farrell and the world in general. In fact, a great deal of the story is about hope and the fact that if we believe we can accomplish. In the comics, Annie did it all alone until Warbucks rescued her to a life of luxury, but that was over many years. Leapin Lizards, a musical has to be over in around two hours.

The “bad guys” in this story are Miss Hannigan ( deftly handled by Christine Sherrill. who has a powerful voice and a solid sense of comic timing) the sleazy orphanage mistress, her brother Rooster ( Jake Klinkhammer) and his ladyfriend,Lily (  Maggie Portman, who has made the trip from her days in Rogers Park to Aurora, where she really gets to strut her stuff). The ensemble and character roles in this production are ably handled by some tip-top actors including Larry Adams, a Drake ( who shows that even a small role is important in the total picture) and there is an outstanding and memorable portrayal of President FDR by  Don Richard. The ensemble players take on many roles, changing costumes from scene to scene and they make it seem that there is a cast of 50 or more.

“Annie” will continue at The Paramount Theatre located at 23 East Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora through  December 30th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.m Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.

EXCEPTIONS: Tuesday, 12/11 at 10 a.m., NO SHOW on the 12th or the evening of the 19th and NO shows on Thursday, 12/20,Wednesday,12/26 and Thursday 12/27

Tickets range from $34.90-$46.90 making it very “family friendly” and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 630-896-6666 or online at www.ParamountAurora.com

Some street parking is available and valet parking is very affordable as well. This is of course a G RATED show and perfect for the holiday season.

                                                                                                                                                                      

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “Annie”

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