By Beki Pineda
ANNIE. Written by Thomas Meehan; music by Charles Strouse; lyrics by Martin Charnin; directed by Alicia K. Meyers. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe) through February 24, 2018. Tickets available at 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com.
During my recent visit to BDT, I learned that they are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, opening their season with the show they originally opened with back in 1977. A local actor, Brandon Palmer, who has worked at the theater in the box office, did a terrific job of putting together a memoir of the first 40 years. What a joy it is to sit with that book and revisit all the wonderful shows I’ve seen over the years. Wayne Kennedy with lots of hair! Scott Beyette with even more. The Watermans in so many roles. AK Klimpke as Will Rogers, Shelly Cox-Robie in CATS and as Anna in KING AND I, Bren (now Burron) as the squeaky-voiced Lina Lamont in SINGING IN THE RAIN. Brian Norber – how I miss his smiling face. Joannie Brousseau as Lola and Evita and Charity. Ali in hundreds of variations. So many wonderful memories. I think my first show was either A CHORUS LINE or LA CAGE in 1988, followed after a gap by CHESS. After that, I think I’ve probably seen nine out of every 10 shows the BDT company has presented. What a legacy! And they are just getting started. Now, we have second generations – children of longtime performers who are following in the footsteps of their talented parents.
I believe CHESS in 1991 was the first time I saw Wayne Kennedy on stage. He was so impressive as Freddy, the arrogant American chess player; his rendition of “Pity the Child” is one of my earliest and best memories of Wayne. He has been a consistent leader of the BDT company ever since, and remains so today. Playing Daddy Warbucks in ANNIE gives him the opportunity to grow from an arrogant, self-assured businessman to a humbled, loving father and allows audiences to rejoice in his rendition of “Something Was Missing.”
Annie Dwyer has become a welcome addition to the company in recent years and comes into her own as Miss Hannigan in this show, a role she has amazingly never played before. Considering how perfectly meshed it is with her over-the-top sense of humor, she is a natural for the role of the frustrated and conniving matron at the orphanage where Annie and a tribe of little girls live. She goes from arrogant to humble, from belligerent to frightened, from hopeful to defeated on the turn of a dime, all the while conveying to the audience that she’s having the time of her life.
Of course, the show is also dependent on the skills of your Annie. The role is double-cast at BDT and the Annie I saw (Darcy Keating), while displaying a strong singing voice and an easy acting style, was hampered by an unfortunate wig. It unflatteringly hung in her face and did nothing to allow her natural beauty to shine through. I trust that this far into the run, that has been fixed by now. Her partners in crime knock it out of the ballpark while extolling the “virtues” of a “Hard-Knock Life”.
This is the kind of show that counts on a strong ensemble of people doing a lot of different parts and stepping into the spotlight when the song demands. The talented ensemble of singer/dancers fill the roles of people in Hooverville, the servants at Daddy Warbucks’, the Cabinet at the White House and others – then step up to become Bert Healy, radio-show host (Scott Severtson), A Star to Be (Valerie Igoe) and President Roosevelt (Brian Burron). The trio of Annie Dwyer as Miss Hannigan, Scott Beyette as Rooster (her brother) and Danielle Scheib as Lily (Rooster’s ditzy girlfriend) stop the show with their version of “East Street.”
A big Christmas finale makes it a perfect show for a holiday outing for the family or as entertainment for your December visitors.
WOW factor: 8.5