by guest reviewer T.E. Klunzinger
The Blue Light Players just keep getting better and better, to the point where their current production of “Annie” is easily a contender for Best Musical of the season. Too bad that you may not get to see it, since it only plays twice more at Hannah Center and may already be sold out. (Friday’s performance was sold out, which means all the auditorium and the balcony.)
While this 40-year-old show has proved to be somewhat indestructible and eternally popular, it can always be done badly; but that’s certainly not the case here. First among its assets is Katie Schupbach as Annie, an amazingly talented 6th grader who shows her star power in belting out a flawless “Tomorrow” while tethering a live dog, a 9-month-old standard poodle that’s almost bigger than she is. Her infectious, confident optimism permeates story and the show.
The experienced Mike Stewart as Daddy Warbucks is at first aloof but quickly shows he cares about the cheerful little red-haired girl who comes to live with him. Kathryn Mulcahy as his secretary Grace – new to Lansing theater – is so good and comfortable onstage that she seems to be perhaps on loan from one of the Wharton Center’s touring Broadway productions.
Jean Burk is a hoot as the deliriously hideous orphanage overseer Miss Hannigan, forever frustrated by her “Little Girls” and even in her dreams of “Easy Street,” partnered in the latter with Dale Williams and Caitlyn Christenson as the hapless and amusing Rooster and Lily.
I could go on about the many other good people in the cast of 52 – that’s fifty-two – but suffice it to say that, taking their cue from Annie, they all work well together and seem to be having a great time which clearly comes through in their performances. Choreography for platoons of people is difficult to pull off, but Director/Choreographer Helen Hart makes it work very well here, repeatedly, including the big tap number(!).
A couple of drawbacks: except for the Warbucks mansion, the set(ting)s are minimalist, but that’s not really a distraction; and the pre-recorded musical track using electronic instruments (which lends an appropriate, carnival-like quality) can be tricky if you complete a dance/dialogue part of a number too soon or too late and the music goes along by itself, or not.
Costuming 52 people, with much doubling, is a daunting task, but the onstage colors seemed to get better and brighter as the show moved along, to a glorious riot of red-themed color in the final, joyous Christmas scene.
ANNIE is presented by Blue Light Players at Hannah Center, this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday at 4:00 p.m. only. You can call (517) 490-4567 or visit http://bluelightplayers.com to see if any tickets remain.