Friday, January 1, 2010

Annie, Plum & Blueberry Casts, Georgetown Palace Theatre, December 23

I brought six family members to see Annie on December 23 and all were delighted.

This wasn't the same show that ALT reviewed on November 28. Director Mary Ellen Butler and the Georgetown Palace team chose to maximize participation and presentation for their end-of-2009 holiday production. Leading roles were double- or triple-cast and ensemble roles were double-cast, resulting in a complicated mosaic for the 106 actors and the 40+ support staff. Rehearsals, tech runs and coordination must have required logistics approaching those of the launch of the space shuttle.

On opening weekend I saw Principal Cast Mango led by Lana Roff as Annie and Dana Barnes as Oliver Warbucks, supported by Ensemble Cast Strawberry. Two days before Christmas we saw Principal Cast Plum led by Adele Simms and Jerry Garrett, supported by Ensemble Cast Blueberry.

My regret is that due to family events and other December happenings I didn't get to see Principal Cast Kiwi, led by Brittany Macy as Annie.

The December 23 Plum/Blueberry performance had lots of zing. The cast presented the story, song and musical numbers with the assurance born of winning the hearts of previous audiences. They were having a good time and we were having a good time with them.

Sixth grader Adele Simms gave us an Annie with bounce, sincerity and just the right amount of sass. Simms knew her laugh lines and set them up precisely, acting with confidence with players three times her age or older. Jerry Garett's Warbucks was a bit sterner than that of his counterpart Dana Barnes and crafted the musical component of the role with greater precision.

A favorite among the supporting roles was Diego A. Flores doing smarmy radio announcer Bert Healy and FDR's Secretary of State Cordell Hull -- can we see this exuberantly self-confident performer again sometime in the future? Marsha Sray played the droll villainess Mrs. Hannigan with fine New York accent and the swagger and smirk of a Jean Harlow. William Diamond as the tap-dancing butler Drake had the flair and comedy of a nose-in-the-air character out of Dr. Seuss. He got a good laugh with his audibly disgusted announcement to Warbucks of the mendacious couple "Mr. and Mrs. M-u-d-g-e" but couldn't resist running the gag again a minute later.

Seeing Annie for a second time I was struck by the imagination and flair of its design elements. Those included the striking quasi-Art-Deco projections in black and yellow of New York cityscapes, certainly by season graphic designer Barb Jernigan; the convincing contrast between the prison-like orphanage set played on the apron and the two-story Warbucks mansion revealed behind it; and, particularly, the sweep and flourish of the costumes, done in multiple changes for the 106 actors by Ramona Haass and Ronni Prior of A Cut Above costumes in Round Rock.

In sum, Annie succeeded in grand style. This many-shows-in-one production extended participation of artists, technicians and audience, sent us away happy for the holidays, and anchored the Georgetown Palace yet again as a community service and leading Austin-area production house.

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