REVIEW: Musical Brings Optimism for Holidays

by Joy Donovan on November 19, 2010

Little girls, a cute dog, catchy tunes and even a Christmas tree. With these perfect ingredients, how can a show miss?

The show with those key elements is “Annie,” the current offering at Artisan Center Theater in Hurst. The musical is based on the comic strip “Lil Orphan Annie,” featuring the curly-haired 11-year-old girl full of confidence and hope.

Set against the background of the Great Depression, The spunky orphan escapes her dreary orphanage, finds her faithful dog Sandy and gets taken in for Christmas by Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. 

No matter the cast, no matter the theater, no matter the year, “Annie” has a lot going for it. The original Broadway musical opened in 1977, playing for years and raking in big theater awards. It won not only the Tony Award for best musical, but also Tonys for best original score, best book, best scenic design, best choreography and best direction. The show still holds up today with its message of hope and happiness seeming especially relevant in these tough economic times.

Artisan Center Theater, as usual, has double-cast this show, with Caroline Ellis being one of two girls chosen as the lead character. Miss Ellis ably handles the demanding vocals of this musical. She’s on stage almost constantly, a tough job for any actress, especially a young one, and she rarely shows signs of fatigue.

Tyler Cox, a manager at WBAP radio, took on the role of Oliver Warbucks, adeptly playing the blustery billionaire who turns softy for the red-headed orphan. Unlike others in the show, Cox is no true singer, but his take on half-talking, half-singing his tunes works for his gruff-exterior character.

Joey Geisel plays the con artist Rooster, and Laura Lester his floozy girlfriend, Lily St. Regis. The pair is funny, and their “Easy Street” number was one of the high points of the show. High points are something this musical does have, since much of its music is of the hum-along variety. “Tomorrow,” “Maybe,” “Little Girls” and “I’m Gonna Like it Here” are just a few of the songs that help make this show the hit it always has been.

The show continues through Dec. 23, making it a perfect destination for families celebrating holiday cheer. “Annie” is the kind of optimistic, golly-gee-whiz musical that will have you leaving the theater humming an upbeat little ditty. And golly, gee-whiz, isn’t that what we need right now?

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