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Theater review: 'Annie' at Carpenter Performing Arts Center

November 5, 2010 |  9:00 am

Annie Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be a box-office clamor for "Annie" at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center. This efficient Musical Theatre West revival of Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin's tuneful 1977 Tony winner observes the perennial family favorite's time-tested formula, which won't disappoint its ready-made audience.

The Long Beach take on this critic-proof adaptation of Harold Gray's Depression-era comic strip makes musical-theater history with Andrea McArdle -- the original Annie -- starring three decades later as comic villain Miss Hannigan. McArdle's post-Merman belt and trouper's moxie remain potent, without supplanting the Olympian dementia of originator Dorothy Loudon -- and who could? She certainly inhales Hannigan's "Little Girls," and -- with Michael Paternostro's raucous Rooster and Bets Malone's kazoo-voiced Lily -- makes "Easy Street" a bona-fide showstopper.

More standout moments involve gifted Melody Hollis as Annie, soaring and sincere from her affecting "Maybe" and ubiquitous "Tomorrow" onward.  Talented fellow orphans Grace Kaufman, Alexa Freeman, Jenna Rosen, Paige Befeler, Madison Milledge and Danielle Soibelman nail their numbers; Jeff Austin's staunch Oliver Warbucks spearheads a propulsive "N.Y.C."

Throughout, director Steven Glaudini's glossy-toned ensemble displays reliable expertise, whether it's always-fine Shannon Warne as Warbucks' secretary, ever-stalwart Damon Kirsche tossing off his radio host or stellar canine Mikey 's outstanding Sandy.  Choreographer Roger Castellano maintains cleanly executed moves, while musical director Daniel Thomas elicits Broadway-level sounds all around.

Yet, a prefabricated familiarity attends the proceedings.  "Annie" hasn't exactly gone away since its premiere, and was then already a throwback to traditional '50s-era structure. Any nominal relevance to the current climate thus evaporates. These pro-forma, stand-and-deliver aspects will hardly keep the targeted demographic from embracing "Annie" once again.

-- David C. Nichols

"Annie," Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 14. $30 to $80. (562) 856-1999 or www.musical.org. Running time:  2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: From left, Paige Befeler, Alexa Freeman, Andrea McArdle, Melody Hollis. Credit: Ken Jacques

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