Tuesday, May 8, 2018


By James Karas

“Maybe” her parents are young and leading an ideal domestic life. She wistfully and longingly imagines how life could have been for her if her parents had not made the mistake of giving her up. The reality is “Hard Knock Life” in the orphanage with no love and an empty belly while sewing and cleaning. But there is always “Tomorrow” when the sun will shine and all will be well.

She escapes the orphanage, goes past “Hooverville” and eventually ends up in a mansion and decides “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here.” Soon after, she hears the promise of “You Won’t Be An Orphan for Long.”
 The Cast of ANNIE – Toronto Production. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann 2018
There are a few more songs and plot twists, but that is the trajectory of the life of the sweet and spunky 11-yyear old Annie as represented in the musical of that name. Optimistic, sentimental, funny and mythical (poor orphan girl adopted by billionaire and is a force in solving the economic crises of the depression by inspiring the president of the United States). Yes, Annie is all of those things and, in a word, it is delightful.

The revival production at the Ed Mirvish Theatre displays all the virtues of the musical that made it a hit 40 years ago and can still enchant and entertain us.

Isobel Khan and Ruby Stokes will alternate as Annie with Isobel playing on opening night. She displayed all the spunk and vigour expected of her but her voice struck me as having a slightly nasal quality that I did not particularly like. Is it her voice or the microphone? Aside from that, she is the type of Annie you imagine and expect.

Lesley Nicol gets the classic role of Miss Hannigan, the alcoholic orphanage matron who is corrupt and funny.  She goes into partnership with Rooster (Matthew Hawksley) and Lily (Kate Somerset How) who pose as Annie’s parents to get the $50,000 reward offered by Daddy Warbucks. They are marvelous.
Lesley Nicol in ANNIE – Toronto Production. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann 2018
Alex Bourne plays the billionaire Warbucks and in the era of Donald Trump and Co.it is hard to imagine a decent man with that kind of wealth. He is and he is attracted to his secretary Grace Farrell (Carolyn Maitland) as we are. We know he will marry her and they will make great parents for Annie.

If you are in a mythical world, there is no point in stopping and in this musical Annie meets President Roosevelt played by Stephen McGlynn who does not seem to have a handle on the accent we hear from film clips of the president.

Ella the dog does a great job acting as Sandy the dog.

The set has several arches that are painted ugly turquoise with puzzle pieces on them. We see a large gold W when Warbucks is on stage which is a bit too reminiscent of Trump Tower.

The Ed Mirvish Theatre was full of children around Annie’s age who seemed to be enjoying the show. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and recommend it highly.

Annie  by Thomas Meehan (book0, Charles Strouse (music) and Martin Charnin (lyrics), directed by Nikolai Foster continues until June 3, 2018 at The Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St. Toronto, Ontario. www.mirvish.com

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