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Nov 14, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

FRONT ROW CENTRE: Annie spreads sunshine on stage until Nov. 16

North York Mirror

The lovable redhead is back singing her familiar refrain – ‘the sun’ll come out tomorrow’ – and spreading optimism to everyone she meets.

Little Orphan Annie was first introduced as a comic strip by Harold Gray in 1924. The strip was still running in 1976 when composer Charles Strouse teamed with lyricist Martin Charnin and book writer Thomas Meehan to create the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical hit Annie. I am happy to report that the production by Curtain Call Players on stage at Fairview Library Theatre is thoroughly enjoyable and succeeds by following the ground plan laid out by the show’s creators

It helps that director Keith O’Connell has assembled a terrific cast who perform the show in a brisk staging. The major adult roles are very well cast. Martin Kelly has the look and authoritative voice to play a commanding Daddy Warbucks. He also shows a barely hidden tender side as he gradually falls in love with the little girl whose sunny spirit infuses his home.

As a bonus, O’Connell has restored an extra song written for the Australian production and rarely included in productions of Annie. The song, ‘Why Should I Change a Thing’, is a nice little soliloquy for Warbucks and musical theatre fans will welcome this chance to hear it sung and well sung at that.

Kathryn MacGregor plays the evil Miss Hannigan, matron of the orphanage on New York’s lower east side, where we first met our heroine.

“Do I hear happiness in here?” she snarls when she suspects the girls are up to something, and she schleps around the place not so much as a wicked stepmother, but rather a tired, overworked and dejected woman who can only dream of being on Easy Street.

An opportunity to team with her crooked brother (flashily played by Glen Burgess) and his dim-witted girlfriend (a delightfully dizzy Meg Gibson) sets a plot in motion that drives much of the second act. Their plan is ultimately thwarted by President Roosevelt, played with inspiring warmth by Bob Deutsch.

Saving the best news for last, Curtain Call has found a young lady to play the title role who is an absolute joy to watch. Megan McDowell has an amazing voice to belt out Annie’s songs. She doesn’t overdo it, knowing when to soften her singing for Annie’s other theme, the tender song ‘Maybe’.

From the very first scene, this performer brings the character to life and wins admiration for her professionalism, even when her canine co-star Dodo as Sandy tries to upstage her.

One word of caution: tickets have been selling briskly and many performances are already sold out. Annie continues at Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Dr., through Saturday, Nov. 16. Visit www.curtaincallplayers.com or call 416-703-6181.

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