Suze Diaz... One of the most beloved musical of all times opened this weekend at The Star Theatre in Oceanside! “Annie” is based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”, a young girl who lives in a girl’s orphanage in New York City who dreams of finding her parents. With music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan, the musical first opened on Broadway in 1977 and won the Tony Award for “Best Musical”.
An Oceanside holiday tradition for 13 consecutive years, “Annie” features a cast of 90 talented adult and child performers (and one dog!). This year, the performers joined forces with the national retailer Burlington Coat Factory as a supporter for the “Warm Coats, Warm Hearts” coat drive to help those in need in our local community. Patrons are encouraged to participate by donating a new or gently used coat. It’s an outstanding way for family members to share in the spirit of giving this holiday season. My “partner-in-theater activities” and I brought our donations and were happy to add to the growing number of coats that were hanging on the designated rack. The lobby was decorated in festive Christmas decorations and a cellist was beautifully playing holiday songs by the lovely adorned tree. Our dedicated Opportunity Ticket volunteers happily chatted with the patrons as they came by to purchase tickets for the great prizes that were up for raffle. One prize was a huge panda appropriately decked out in an “Annie” t-shirt and will be raffled off on December 17th so there is time to come to a show and get your Opportunity Tickets!
Photos by Suze Diaz
Producing Artistic Director, David Schulz, started the excitement to a fully packed venue by acknowledging the first responders and firefighters who have been diligently working hard to contain the Lilac Fires and other fires that have been invading our county this past week. A few of the cast and crew members of the play have also been affected and have had to vacate as well; at the same time persevering with others to power on and put on a great show in the spirit of coming together as a community to help each other during these difficult times.
The play starts with a black and white montage of various parts of New York City during the Depression in the 1930s as a trumpet plays a melancholy solo. Annie and her young friends at the orphanage are supposed to be sleeping but one of the girls, Molly, awakes from a bad dream that starts a ruckus among the other girls. Annie tries to get them to go back to sleep to no avail. Molly asks Annie to read the note from her parents at the annoyance of the older girls. This leads Annie to wistfully sing “Maybe” with the lovely blending of voices in the background from the girls.
Katie Ditter is sweet and spunky as “Annie”. Natalie Bonanno is adorable as “Molly”. Lauren Bigwood (“Pepper”), Libby Bezdek (“Duffy”), Abigail Daliot (“Tessie”), Jacqueline Costigan (“July”) and Athena Woessner (“Kate”) shine in their individual roles.
The tyrannical matron, Miss Hannigan, (sassily played by Katie Marquardt) exasperatingly demands the girls to clean the orphanage when Annie gets caught trying to escape. “It’s A Hard Knock Life” is splendidly performed as they reflect life in an orphanage. However, Annie does succeed in running away and meets up with a stray dog that is also running away…from the dogcatcher. Hoping to be a light of hope to her newfound friend, now known as Sandy, Annie sings to him her positive ideas in “Tomorrow” with the background of a snowy New York City behind them.
From that moment on, the journey that takes Annie from the orphanage to the bright lights of the other side of the town will fill you up with a sense of optimism that no matter what problems may arise in life, the sun does come out with the promise of a new day. Chris Hoolihan (as billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks) and Christine Callaway (as his faithful secretary Grace Ferrell) are remarkably performed as Annie’s heroes and adopted family. David Schulz (Rooster Hannigan, Miss Hannigan’s sneaky younger brother) and Melanie Williams (as his equally sneaky girlfriend, Lily St. Regis) are hilarious as they try to pull a fast one over Oliver Warbucks falsely portraying themselves as Annie’s “parents”. Bill Ims is truly presidential in his portrayal of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The rest of the company is superbly marvelous in their supporting roles and their musical performances. You just might find yourself wanting to sing along with notable songs such as “Little Girls, “Button Up Your Overcoat”, “Easy Street”, and “I Don’t Need Anyone But You”. In between set changes, newsies come up stage to announce notable news during that period. It’s rather interesting to hear and remember the situations our country dealt with at those moments in time and compare it to what we deal with today.
“Annie” is a wonderful delight and an excellent production to definitely bring the whole family to enjoy. Come be an active part of the holiday tradition and create new memories! The remaining show times are Saturday, December 16th: 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM and Sunday, December 17th: 2:00 PM. There’s always room to bring more joy to your self and to others. Let “Annie” show you how!
For more information on performances at The Star Theatre Company and also see what shows are featured in their 2018 Season, please go to their website at https://www.startheatreco.com