Review: ‘Annie’ at DHT
REVIEW BY GREGG S. GEARY / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Just when you think the Grinch might steal your Christmas with countless headlines about unemployment, recession and fiscal cliffs, along comes “Annie” to the rescue. Diamond Head Theater’s production is a welcome antidote to any bad news that might come your way. Set in Depression-era New York City when economic times were much worse that today, the show combats malaise with humor, love, and optimism, assuring us that no matter how bleak things may look, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.”
Presented by Diamond Head Theatre
» Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
The 1977 Tony award-winning musical by the team of Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin is family-friendly fare based upon the characters in Harold Gray’s popular comic strip, “Little Orphan Annie.” The title role is played by Riley Newton, whose clear, strong singing voice assured the capacity audience that an enjoyable evening’s entertainment was in store.
Newton is accompanied in her escapades by an endearing ensemble of orphans, played by Kira Stone, Erisan Awaya, Stephanie Zaharis, Kaili Delos Santos, Lani Matsumiya, and Kiara Reeves, who lament their depressing life in the orphanage in a well choreographed rendition of “Hard Knock Life.” The creators of “Annie” ignored W. C. Fields’ advice to “never work with children or animals,” by adding a scene-stealing dog named Sandy, played by Phoebe that elicited an “awww” from the crowd at every entrance.
Despite all those kids and a dog onstage, the adults held their own. Lisa Konove played the inebriated Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage. She hits her comedic stride when joined by her brother, Rooster (Drew Tandal), and his floozy Lily (Leiney Rigg) in a campy, bump and grind rendition of “Easy Street.” The chemistry of these three was clearly evident in their tightly timed repartee that contrasted with a few less well-paced moments between Konove and the orphans in scenes one and two.
Autumn Ogawa’s portrayal of Oliver Warbucks’ secretary, Grace Farrell, was near flawless. Her confidence, poise, and beauty combined with a crystal clear voice make her every businessman’s dream secretary. Chris Gritti, as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, makes a convincing tycoon whose stiff facade is shattered by the plucky, cheerful orphan Annie. Her Christmas visit to his mansion starts out as a publicity stunt, but becomes a lasting relationship when she steals his heart.
The remaining Ensemble took on the various roles of maids, servants, shoppers, hobos, and radio entertainers with alacrity and aplomb. The vocals and choreography were smooth and sure but for an occasional opening-night hesitation at a few entrances. The house band, under the experienced direction of Emmett Yoshioka, was crisp and well-balanced.
While there are no Christmas songs in the show as in other musicals, such as “Mame” (“We Need a Little Christmas) or “Meet Me In St. Louis” (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”), Annie’s Christmas visit to the Warbucks estate, all decked out for the holidays, makes this production a marvelous holiday gift that is sure to please.
Dr. Gregg S. Geary is a musicologist and interim University Librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.