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Little Miss Sunshine

Written By: Lisa Birle

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The new U.S. national tour of “Annie” is currently playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa from now through May 24th. The Tony Award-winning show has delighted audiences for decades since its debut on Broadway in 1977. Everyone knows “Annie, ” everyone loves it, everyone’s sung “Tomorrow” in their car (maybe that last one’s just me). Personally, I love the musical and the 1982 film version. Walking into Segerstrom Center, I had high expectations for this new production.  Such a beloved classic has a reputation to keep, so I was pleasantly satisfied (not surprised) that this production stayed true to the heart of the classic story of Annie, yet still felt fresh and fun. The trick with older shows is maintaining the integrity of the original story, yet delivering it in a way that still surprises — and this show definitely delivered.

Nine-year-old Issie Swickle makes her tour debut in the title role of Annie, playing the heroine with equal parts gumption and vulnerability. Her talent shined through the sweet yearning for her parents in “Maybe” and the hit “It’s the Hard Knock Life, ” performed with the other impressive young stars of the show. Swickle’s Annie is so optimistic, so endearing, that you can’t help but root for her from the very start, especially when she shares the stage with Sandy, played by the real-life rescue terrier mix named Sunny.

But every sure and certain hero needs a detestable antagonist to foil their plans, and although the super cute, super talented young cast was wonderful, it was Lynn Andrews’ portrayal of Miss Hannigan that generated the biggest laughs and stole every scene. Stumbling around stage, yelling at the orphans … I don’t know how she performed such a ridiculous lush with a straight face. One minute she stammered around the stage, the next she belted out “Little Girls” and made jaws drop with her incredible voice. “Little Girls” was probably the best number in the entire show; a close second was “Easy Street, ” featuring Garrrett Deacon (A SoCal native and UCI alumnus) as Rooster Hannigan and Lucy Werner as Lily. Their vocal talent, on-stage chemistry, and physical comedy were the top entertainment of the night. Don’t be surprised to love the “bad guys” of the show, too.

Other stand-outs were Ashley Edler as Grace Farrell and Gilgamesh Taggett as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, balancing the billionaire with equal parts self-importance, gruffness and kindheartedness. “Something Was Missing, ” a wonderful number reminiscing about the emptiness of his seemingly perfect life before Annie arrived, might have brought a tear to my eye. The detailed sets, created by Tony Award-winning designer Beowulf Boritt, brought the dingy orphanage, streets of New York City, and opulent Warbucks mansion to life and created a fresh feel to the beloved characters, songs and scenes.

Another part of the night that I enjoyed was taking my sweet mom to “Annie, ” and seeing so many other daughters with their mothers. I was glad to see a kid-friendly show like “Annie” bringing families together for an evening and encouraging younger audiences to enjoy a night at the theater. No matter your age, “Annie” will delight.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Dr
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.223.2787 | www.scfta.org