Annie by Academy of the New New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA
December 11, 2018
Review submitted by Julia Jennings of Upper Moreland High School
Brimming with optimism, energy, and the elegant charm of Christmastime in the city, the Academy of the New Church’s production of Annie left the audience “fully dressed” with smiles.
The classic, heartwarming holiday tale of Annie follows an enthusiastic young orphan girl who is given the chance of a lifetime to leave her dismal orphanage and spend Christmas with famous billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Things go awry when the spiteful Miss Hannigan and her brother Rooster scheme to win back Annie and the grand sum of money that comes with her. With the help of President Roosevelt, Oliver Warbucks, and his delightful assistant Grace Farrell, Annie must try to maintain her hope in “tomorrow” and find true happiness, just in time for Christmas.
Academy of the New Church brought this story to life with incredible glitz and glamour. The breathtaking set and sparkling costumes impeccably set the stage for the production’s talented and impressively well-cast actors.
Madison Zagorski brought to life the irrepressible Annie, perfectly capturing her classic youthful vigor and charm. As the somewhat gruff billionaire Oliver Warbucks, Bradley Robinson developed a heart-warming and compelling onstage chemistry with Zagorski as the performance progressed. Serena Boyeson absolutely stole the show as the conniving Miss Hannigan. Her rendition of “Easy Street” and her amazingly consistent and comedic drunken delivery were highlights of the performance. With graceful professionalism, Camryn Buss fantastically portrayed Warbuck’s compassionate assistant, Grace Farrell. Goldendoodle Abby Nolan was also an instant audience favorite as Sandy, Annie’s loyal and lovable canine sidekick.
Hayden Hoffman displayed impressive comedic acting as the sleazy but charming Rooster. Isabelle Kline, Hanna Matsukawa, and Nicole McCurdy added to the performance their impressive vocal skill and beautiful harmonies as the Boylan sisters. Teagan Dewees seamlessly and amazingly took on the role of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt halfway through the performance. As Drake, the butler, James Gay brought incredible energy and sincerity to the production, with consistently spot-on delivery. Dance captains Aurelle and Hope Odhner wonderfully led the large ensemble through complex and challenging choreography.
But perhaps the most extraordinary element of the grand production was the magnificent set. The stage was incredibly transformed from the gloomy and simple orphanage to the glorious and shining marble halls of the Warbucks mansion to the bustling skyline of New York City, and even a remarkably accurate Oval Office, each set more amazing than the last. Likewise, the costuming was impeccable, the torn, dirty dresses of the orphans provided perfect contrast with the fantastically sparkling red bow ties and dresses of the NYC ensemble. Another excellent element of the production was the amazing array of props, including a beautiful old-fashioned wooden wheelchair and a massive and glittering Christmas tree.
ANC’s production of Annie marvelously brought to life the complexities of America during the Great Depression, both the rich splendor of the wealthy and the desolate and difficult existence of the impoverished. The optimistic, feel-good charm of the production ultimately reminded the audience that even in times of adversity and hardship, we can always have faith that the sun will come out tomorrow.
Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School
Annie at the Academy of the New Church proves that with powerful music and heartfelt joy, the influence of optimism and positivity can be stronger than any bad day, for there always will be a better “Tomorrow.”
Annie, based on the comic strips Little Orphan Annie, tells the story of the redheaded, eleven- year-old orphan of the same name. After having a “Hard Knock Life” in a New York City orphanage, owned by the villainous Miss Hannigan, Annie receives an offer to live a brand-new life with Mr. Warbucks and Grace Farrell. Following its Broadway debut in 1977, it remains an immensely popular show, with many performances still produced today.
The opening scene in the show revealed the seven orphans who all collaborated to create a genuine family throughout the show. The actors demonstrated true friendship and love for each other during the hard times. The rest of the ensemble performed memorable, large, and flashy dance numbers throughout the show, but occasionally lacked energy during group numbers.
Leading the show, Madison Zagorski represented the childish and innocent Annie amusingly. It was evident she spent the time to collaborate with Sandy, the dog who Annie befriends during the show. Alongside Zazgorski, Bradley Robinson as Warbucks demonstrated the businessman with such ease. He was able to contrast the youthful demeanor of Annie with a straightforward and serious attitude.
Most noticeably, Serena Boyesen’s portrayal of Miss Hannigan was superb. Leaving the audience begging for more, Boyesen exemplified the malicious and greedy character perfectly. When energy dipped, she was able to capture the audience’s attention quickly, especially during “Easy Street.” Similarly, James Gay, as Drake, interpreted the role with a unique humor. With such poise, he stole many scenes and dance numbers through his bright smile and obvious dedication to the role.
From the opening of the curtains, the sets never disappointed. With many intricate designs, each set piece was built and designed impeccably. By using the fly space, the scene changes were completed relatively quickly, allowing for a spectacular reveal of each new set piece. Also notable was the publicity and marketing team. They used new and innovative ways to market their show with the surrounding community.
Academy of the New Church’s production of the classic musical, Annie, proves that positivity can be found even when you’re stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely.