News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPEHR TUFFLEY Larissa Meagher is Annie in HLT's first show of the 2012-2013 season. In a marvelous character performance, Bucky (in real life a Goldendoddle) plays Sandy.
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published: Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Little Theatre opens new season with Annie
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING --Highlands Little Theatre's 30th season opens tonight with a new production of the popular musical "Annie," based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip by Harold Gray.
Mike McMillian directed the cast of 39 human actors and one dog.
The story takes place in 1933 and is about the 11-year-old orphan Annie, who is trapped in a miserable orphanage run by the horrible Miss Hannigan.
Annie's life changes when she is invited to a billionaire's home for a visit. Everything, of course, ends up happily-ever-after, but before it does Annie has to escape kidnappers and accept that she will never see her long-missing parents again.
As Annie, Larissa Meagher, a junior Heartland Idol winner, shows tremendous promise in her first starring role. She is as endearing as her character, and just as feisty. When a butler asks to take her new coat she throws up her fists and answers, "Are you going to give it back?"
Bill Davis is a perfect Daddy Warbucks -- big, imposing and a marshmallow in Annie's hands. Laura Wade as his personal secretary Grace Ferrell is motherly, beautiful and kind.
The villains, as often happens, steal the show, however.
Ellen Lemos is the dastardly Hannigan, evil right down to the tip of her, er, pint bottle of vodka, but hilarious at the same time. For example, she makes the audience laugh while twisting the head off a doll as she sings an ode to little girls.
Not a master of empathy, in other words, Hannigan says, "why any kid would want to be an orphan I'll never know."
Playing her brother Rooster, Todd Coleman oozes and slinks across the stage, the quintessential snake-in-the-grass.
And as his girlfriend Lily (Johanna Johnston) nails the "Joisey Gurl" with a heart of gold -- although her heart is not exactly worth 24 carats.
The three do a wonderful job with the number "Easy Street."
The orphans are all terrific. Energetic, in step and in harmony, they create excitement and command attention.
Besides the acting and the singing, the set design and choreography stand out.
The audience follows the characters from an orphanage bedroom, to a homeless gathering under a bridge, to a stunning uptown mansion to night time Times Square. All scene changes are done in smooth motions without lowering the curtain. Every inch of the stage is put to good use.
Most of the songs have become classics, such as "It's a Hard Knock Life," and "Tomorrow."
There are other numbers too, like the powerful "We'd Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover; You made us what we are today" an angry song, sung to stomping feet.
Special mention goes to Bucky, the 5-year-old Goldendoddle playing the part of Sandy the mutt.
Despite an audience in front of him, speakers on either side of him and cans tied to his tail, Bucky hit every mark (and left no mark) in a subtle, finely-tuned performance.
This ambitious production, showcasing a wide range of talent. It is the perfect kickoff to the 2012-2013 season.
The orphans: Jacqueline Fernandez, Carly Juve, Madelyne Weaver, Nala Price, Julia Laframboise, Moriah Finney, Sylvia Weaver, Katie Shoemaker, and Katlyn Sassatelli.
The muti-cast chorus: Elise Chaesean, Harley Aade, Amber Gerberich, Ashlee Carnahan, Payton Wright, Gennell Ward, Hannah Cribbs, Patrick Hely, Gary Johnson III, Mark reyes, Javon Dennis, Kendall Haithcock, Jackson Davis, Brenda Hippchen, Gloria Coffey, Goldie Garnich, RoseMarie Tippins-Berenger, Larry Greer, Andy Basso, Glenn Fowler, Ryan Chandler, and Ron Thomas.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is played by Art Harriman and Bert Healy by Pete Pollard.
"Annie" runs through Nov. 18, with evening shows Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; and matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. For more information, call the box office at 382-2525 or visit the web site at www.highlandslittletheatre.org.
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