Monday, December 10, 2012

Genesius’ ‘Annie’ is a holiday gift for musical theater lovers

By Cheryl Thornburg

Genesius Theatre’s holiday production, “Annie” is sold out and deservedly so. A cast filled with first-class singers makes the memorable music even more memorable. Creative set and lighting designs set the tone and atmosphere of the 1930s where Annie, an orphan in New York City, again steals the hearts of those both on stage and in the audience.
Grace Gleason plays Annie with just the right spunk and delivers Annie’s songs “Maybe” and “Tomorrow” with a clear, sweet soprano. She also handled one of the foibles of live theater like a pro, when Tucker, playing the lovable dog, Sandy, wasn’t exactly cooperative during her solo “Tomorrow.”
As is to be expected, the orphans are at the heart of the show with the upbeat numbers “Hard Knock Life,” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” Annie’s friends include Sophia Mattes as Pepper, Grace Harmon as Duffy, Alex Goshert as July, Kennedi Kutz as Tessie, Nina Botvin as Kate, and Emerson Gagnon as Molly, the littlest orphan. Molly’s one-liners endear her to the audience instantly.
Though they are front and center in the dance numbers, they are backed up by an ensemble of young actors including Lydia Botterbusch, Mikaela Christie, Joelle Eckert, Kendalyn Judd, Hunter Miller, Haven Miller, Frances Ronning, Isabella Siegel, Julia Weaver, Abby White, and Kat Ziolkowski.
Strong performances from the adult leads give this production its musical framework, from the powerful vocals by Jim Rule as the very wealthy Oliver Warbucks to the softer, elegant vocals of Katie Ott as Grace Farrell, to the over-the-top numbers by Christina Ferlazzo as Miss Hannigan the meanest orphanage matron ever.
Rule and Ott are particularly effective in “N.Y.C.” a number that is sometimes overlooked in comparison to other songs in the show.
Ferlazzo, along with Alex Krick as Rooster Hannigan and Cecilia Cooper as Lily St. Regis are hilarious in the now-classic number “Easy Street.” The three are not only talented vocalists, but also fine comedic actors.
Not to be outdone, Stan Durlak demonstrates his comedic skills as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Two things that set this production apart are the strong vocal ensemble, and some high-tech lighting and video effects.
Whether performing as homeless people, in “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover,” or Oliver Warbucks’ servants in “I Think I’m Going to Like It Here, ” the ensemble actors make the most of every number.
The 1930s videos created a wonderful prelude to the show and an ingenious screen with a lighted, stylized outline of high-rise buildings, kept the unseen, but always important, orchestra out of view.
The remaining cast includes Dean Ficthorn, Chris Eckert, Kyle Schumaker, Jon browning, Randy Gerber, Becca Snyder, Carl Wolfe, Amy Bourey, Emily Fitzpatrick, Laura Stewart, Jeannie Weaver, Colin Presby, Brianna Christie, Emly Fitzparick, Pat Rehr, Elaina Gleason, Kelly Knapper, Molly Knapper, Pat Malarkey, Morgan Reppert, Gabi Taormina, and Heather Troxell.
The show is directed by Christopher Sperat, music directed by Kevin Cooper, choreographed by Amanda Guistwite and Megan Tice, with assistance from Hope O’Pake and Michael Roman; costume designed by Laura Judd, Cathy Miller and Allison White; lighting designed by Spencer Moss Fecho and L J Fecho; set designed by L J Fecho and Kyle Feltenberger; scenic art by Jessica Reber, Kaitlin Reber and Marjory Ewald; stage managed by Kathi Christie; produced by L J Fecho. with video projections by Jordan Baylor.
The show runs through Dec,. 16 at the Tenth and Walnut theater, but as I mentioned, even with adding two performances, the show is sold out.
Coming up next at Genesius is “Sunset Boulevard” Feb. 15 to 24.
To keep up with what’s happening with Genesius, visit the website at


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