Aisle Say attended two openings last evening on Market Street; 1) ANNIE and 2) the harbinger of a new era for the renamed Playhouse on Rodney Square. Built in 1913 by the triumphant triumvirate of du Pont cousins, this venerable institution, once a tryout town for Broadway, has both a solid and auspicious future. Programming [...]

Aisle Say attended two openings last evening on Market Street; 1) ANNIE and 2) the harbinger of a new era for the renamed Playhouse on Rodney Square. Built in 1913 by the triumphant triumvirate of du Pont cousins, this venerable institution, once a tryout town for Broadway, has both a solid and auspicious future. Programming is now under the guidance of Steve Bailey, whose experience and reputation in the industry is singular.
Set in the depression era of 1933, the first image by the audience is the remarkably beautiful and textured scene design by Beowulf Boritt (now THAT's a name!). I say textured for in the scene in Warbuck's mansion, the visual of the magnificent ceiling reminded one of trompe l'oeil.
Nothing much has changed with ANNIE; we know the plot, characters and songs. Martin Charnin, director and lyricist is quite protective of everything ANNIE, seeing as how he directed the first Broadway run in 1977. (“Tomorrow” is one of the 100 most performed tunes from the last century).
Last evening there was more than a sprinkling of wannabe pre-adolescent Annie's in the audience – on a school night!
This is a refreshing and dynamic show, populated by consummate professionals. As we would all hope, the orphans were simply too cute, especially when jumping around with glee as they put one over on the drowsy Miss Hannigan. “Hard Knock Life” was a complete joy and all 8 little girls danced in step like synchronized swimmers.
There is pressure on the titular character; not only being a child in a professional touring cast but also portraying an iconic character. Annie (Issie Swickle) did not miss a note and there was real chemistry between she and Grace Farrell (Ashley Edler) and Warbucks (Gilgamesh Taggett, yet another cool name). Taggett has a great voice.
Miss Hannigan (Lynn Andrews) was a complete stitch. Aisle Say has witnessed past Hannigan's with a mean streak. While Andrews was by no means warm and fuzzy to the orphans, she played her character as a gleeful mercenary. Her exaggerated takes and attitudinal postures were hysterical. Past credits include the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet. One can definitely see similar shenanigans in that role. And Andrews kept up quite nicely with Rooster (Garrett Deacon) and Lily (Lucy Werner) in the rollicking dance number “Easy Street”. Speaking of Rooster, Deacon brought back memories of the lithe, Gumby-like dancing of Ray Bolger in WIZARD OF OZ.
In supporting roles, Bert Healy (Brendan Malafronte) portrayed the perfect smarmy radio announcer. FDR (Jeffrey B. Duncan) did a great impersonation, replete with the proper positioning of the cigarette holder. In the White House scene, Warbucks and Annie are met with a glum staff exorcising over The Depression and war with Germany. Annie reprises “Tomorrow”. Upon her exit – in a Forrest Gump moment – light bulbs go off and positive attitudes beget a deluge of brain storming. FDR comes up with a way to get people back to work and calls it The New Deal. Perhaps the US Congress should be forced to see this version of ANNIE. Maybe then they will get the idea that positivity works over divisiveness.
The cast was treated to a Standing O by an appreciative audience.
Next up is CHICAGO in January
Through Dec 6 ThePlayhouseDE.org (new web site) 302.888.0200