July 1, 2002


Annie, Jr.

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning



















For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

For more about CPCC Summer Theatre, please visit http://www.cpcc.cc.nc.us/summer_theatre/2002/.

(special to the Charlotte Observer)

The last dress rehearsal of Annie, Jr. at CPCC was rife with kinks and saddled with a cast of exhausted adult actors. Perhaps the frenetic Summer Theatre schedule has wrung its grown-ups dry. Fortunately, the play is full of energetic children who are undaunted by the abbreviated script and their lackluster co-performers. Let’s hope they all get a good night sleep before the premiere.

Annie is an eleven-year-old girl who was abandoned with a note and half a locket on the steps of an orphanage as an infant in 1922. The orphanage is run by a heartless wretch named Miss Hannigan, who when not demanding hard labor from the girls in her care, bizarrely demands that they tell her they love her. When Annie is chosen by billionaire Warbucks to spend Christmas in his home, Miss Hannigan and her no-good brother come up with a plot to score the reward money Warbucks offers in return for finding Annie’s parents.

Annie is played by Emily Johnson, a rising sixth grader at Trinity Episcopal School, and, boy, can she sing. Her strong clear voice overwhelms everyone else’s in the show. It’s the only voice that outsoars the live music performed by two musicians with synthesizers and a percussionist with a glockenspiel. She is precocious, remembers all of her lines, and works gracefully with a dog determined to show its derriere to the audience.

Connie Renda, fresh from a lead in Jekyll and Hyde, plays a one dimensional Miss Hannigan. In endless repetition she employs a jutting chin and a strident walk to convey her harsh nature, as she alternately bosses the girls, and tugs maniacally at her own hair. Greg Glover delivers the pragmatic billionaire side of Oliver Warbucks, but is unconvincing as a warm father.

The children command the stage. As a group, the orphans are charming songstresses, who perform their dance numbers with big smiles and lots of pep. A set of twins who repeatedly respond "Oh my goodness" in unison are a sweet touch.

Cully Long designed a set that doubles for the adult farce Deja Vu that opens this weekend. A series of painted backdrops on a runner transform the stage from an orphanage to a New York street to Warbucks’ living room, but the set changes were rough as steel wool, and slow as a Charlotte red light. In a bizarre costuming move, Annie begins the play with lovely straight red hair, but after a day with Mr. Warbucks emerges with the comic strip kinky perm.

"There’s no such thing as overdoing it in a children’s show," Musical Director Bill Congdon instructed the cast. Hopefully the adults will take that to heart.

Lynn Trenning, July 1, 2002

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