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Annie is a story that the little girl in all of us can appreciate.

Book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin
The Fox Theatre
Directed by Martin Charnin
December 27, 2005 – January 1, 2006

The Fabulous Fox Theatre brought 2005 to a close with one of Broadway’s favorite rags-to-riches tales, Annie. The show has hit the Midwest more times than you can count, but the timeless story never fails to please the throngs of youngsters who fill the seats. We all know the story—it is set during the Depression, when our country was in the throes of unemployment, soup kitchens, and hard times. Annie is dealing with hard times herself, residing in a NYC orphanage ruled by the tyrannical Miss Hannigan.

Fast-forward to a NYC billionaire who is looking to spread some holiday cheer by having an orphan spend Christmas in his manor. As fate would have it, Annie is that chosen orphan. She warms the heart of the cold businessman, leading him to try to adopt the wayward child. Fate intervenes again as Annie wants to find her birth parents only to have crooks and cheaters try to claim her—along with a hefty reward—as their own. What results is a heartwarming tale of triumph over adversity—all the while Annie is teaching us about unlimited optimism.

While the story may be a tad too cutesy for my jaded, bitter soul, the plethora of young ladies—and a few little gentlemen—were entranced for the majority of the show (two-plus hours is a long time for the wee ones to be quiet). Performance-wise, the show was a hit—with the exception of a low-key performance by Alene Robertson as Miss Hannigan. Robertson’s performance came off tired and uninspired while the children, Daddy Warbucks, and even the dog playing Sandy gave their all.

Taking on the show’s lead role as Annie was Marissa O’Donnell, who kicked the show into high gear with her sensational singing voice. The key to O’Donnell’s terrific performance was her ability to shine without being annoying. She knew when to belt out the big tune (“Maybe,” “Tomorrow”) and when to turn it down a few notches (“It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “N.Y.C.”).

Matching the little firecracker step for step was Conrad John Schuck as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. Shuck’s dominating presence and velvety smooth voice gave his role a nice sense of balance. Also making the most out of their roles were St. Louis native Lindsay Ryan as Molly and Monica L. Patton as Star to Be. Ryan’s colorful performance nearly stole the show, as did Patton’s vocal performance in the show-stopping tune, “N.Y.C.” Others who deserve a nod of appreciation are Mackenzie Phillips in the role of Lily St. Regis, Katherine Pecevich as Mrs. Pugh, and Scott Willis as Rooster Willis. Each of these actors did a fine job in giving this time-tested story a good kick in the pants.

Despite the biting cold weather, I left the Fox full of good cheer and warm fuzzy feelings. While the story may be a little too optimistic and shiny for today’s cynic, one thing remains crystal clear: Annie is a story that the little girl in all of us can appreciate.

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