Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus

The U.S. National Tour of “Annie,” directed by the original director and lyricist Martin Charnin, graced the Fabulous Fox Theater this past month.

This popular musical opened to the scene of the Municipal Girls Orphanage. The voices of Annie, played by Tori Bates, and Molly, played by Bunny Baldwin, opened the show with Annie calming Molly after awakening from a nightmare. The girls’ voices pierced the air as they exchanged dialogue with one another. This scene was followed by Annie’s backstory, which set the basis for the plot of the show.

Miss Hannigan, played by Erin Fish, barreled in on stage as Annie was trying to escape the orphanage to find her parents and stole the spotlight. Fish’s deliverance of each line and acting commanded the stage throughout the entirety of the show.

As the girls started to sing “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” the audience could be seen smiling and perking up to this familiar song. The smiles continued to stay as Sandy the dog made an
appearance.

The show took a turn for the worse when Bates began to sing what is coined as the “eternal anthem of optimism”: “Tomorrow.” The outlook was anything but optimistic. Bates’ rendition of this song was quite pitchy and consistently landed flat on key notes. It was a painful number to get through because of the performance, and it was saddening to see this beloved tune taken in such a direction.

After this point, Bates’ voice was just shrill. Instead of giving the audience a child-like delivery, Bates’ voice sounded strained and uncomfortable. She delivered each of her lines at the same tone and manner as though she was stuck on one setting, unable to show the appropriate emotions necessary for each scene.

Part of Annie’s classic charm is the children with youthful (meaning nasally, at times) voices. However, the actress seemed as though she was having trouble finding a balance between this “classic” Annie sound and one that could be universally appreciated, and, unfortunately, her performance suffered for it.

While Bates’ performance as Annie was disappointing, the rest of the cast alongside Miss Hannigan certainly did not disappoint.

Other notable performers on the cast included Gilgamesh Taggett, who portrayed the wealthy Oliver Warbucks, and his assistant Grace Farrell, who was played by Casey Prins. Taggett’s baritone voice was a pleasure to hear. Both he and Prins were phenomenal on stage. They, like Fish, commanded the stage but in a calmer and respectable manner. Both actors were able to compensate for the overzealous Annie, who shared the stage with them throughout the show.

Another star performer was the actor who played Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jeffery B. Duncan. Although coming across as somewhat whimsical at times, Duncan executed his role with grace and served as comic relief.

Overlooking the main character, the musical could still be appreciated by the strong performances of the other cast members. Additionally, the set design and transition between scenes was smooth and did not interrupt the performance.

The musical demonstrates the power of optimism during a time when the political climate of the country was tense, which some would argue is the case currently. Annie’s chipper attitude and ability to see the brighter side to situations is a lesson that everyone can learn from. This moral of the musical is one of the main reasons why the show became a hit and continues to be a household favorite show for the whole family.   

However, if one is looking for an exciting evening, it would be better to go do something else. The exception would be for the case of those who are diehard fans of the musical; for them, this rendition of “Annie” might be worthwhile to see. This show also fits the bill for those looking for some family friendly entertainment. The show is definitely more suited for children rather than adults.

While the musical is no longer playing in Atlanta this year, the show is playing across the country with the closest upcoming show at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga on May 2 and 3.