Bursting with smiles, good cheer and relentless optimism in the face of dire circumstances, "Annie" is the spoon full of sugar needed for those who fear we are teetering on the brink of a recession.
Joyous and energetic, the Depression-era musical is powered by cast chemistry and energetic showmanship. More than in most musicals, the pounding orchestrations from the pit flow into the audience, setting up the succession of show-stopping numbers for enrapturing triumph.
Ellie Rose Pulsifier powers the show with a rambunctious, effervescent title role performance, and she's complemented aptly by a crankily crusty turn by Stefanie Londino as corrupt orphanage manager Miss Hannigan.
Christopher Swan brings the necessary hard edge as Oliver Warbucks, the millionaire benefactor who takes Annie in as a publicity ploy. Julia Nicole Hunter, as Warbucks' assistant, Grace, provides a buffer as Warbucks power through his character arc, which is central to Annie's story and reflects the impact of her audacious good cheer.
Also making an impact is Nick Bernardi as conman Rooster Hannigan and Mark Woodard as President Franklin Roosevelt, who gets the idea for the New Deal in a meeting with the sprightly orphan.
Even though many of the plot points in "Annie" don't age well -- there are unwelcome hints of grooming and questionable relationship dynamics -- the spirit of the show manages to shine through the decades.
"Annie" radiates innocence and joy, and its charm makes it easy to take down your walls and let the good feelings flow. The show is every bit as ineffable as its fire-headed lead character.
Annie plays through Jan. 8 at Centennial Hall. Buy tickets here.
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