Annie Captured Our Hearts In RedSunday, April 13, 2014
We got lost. Between my dyslexia and New West’s streets and avenues with few having a real name. But we had left with plenty of time and arrived half an hour early. This was our first exposure to Massey Theatre, with the fee, the red cutain, the red seats, of a grand old movie house of my youth.. And it was to be a wonderfully rewarding one of which I will always remember in the colour red!
The lobby was full of older people with many children. It was packed. I overheard them comparing notes on previous experiences with the musical and or the film (which neither Lauren or I ever saw.) I had a chat with the legendary dancer/actor Jeff Hyslop who was there with a child. I also saw an extremely serious (one of the funniest men on earth) Norm Grohmann. We talked of my favourite CBC funny radio program ever, Doctor Bundolo’s Pandemonium Medicine Show. I felt I was in a time warp. I had first photographed Hyslop and Grohman in the late 70s. The audience there seemed to be straight from that Burnaby neighbourhood I had lived back then - a world that preceded iPhones and terrorism – a kinder more naïve world.
I was to be proven wrong.
This production has a big, nicely loud and competent band with lots of brass. Lauren and I liked the band and during the interval we went to look down on the orchestra pit and she asked me the name of every visible instrument. I spotted and noted a beautiful bass clarinet.
I was nicely surprised that Valerie Easton who I first met and photographed in the late 70s as a dancer with Jeff Hyslop and Jim Hibbard at the CBC, then as a choreographer for Arts Club Theatre musicals is the Artistic Director. At halftime I had a short chat and she seemed serious, something about the night not being as good as the previous one. She must be a perfectionist because this show which has lots (and lots) of set movement went without a hitch.
Lauren became enamored with the little girls at the orphanage particularly with the real-life sister of the stage Annie, Julia MacLean. This was Jamie MacLean, 8, as Molly. She is so tiny that Lauren said, “She looks like she is in kindergarten.” I am confident that Jamie could fill GM Place (or whatever it is called now) with her voice.
Since I had seen Steve Maddock (Oliver Warbucks) in the Arts Club Theatre production of Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast I knew that Maddock looks a lot like Lauren’s father. She admitted she was right.
In our ignorance of all things Annie we were disappointed to note that this production’s Annie did not have curly red hair. It was straight. But again we were proven wrong and I will not reveal anything more on this!
Caitlin Clugston as Miss Hannigan who rules the orphanage between swigs from her hip flask (not stored there but in a much more intimate place), pretty well ruled the stage as well every time she was on. At first I thought her performance was over-the-top until I figured, “I am watching a live presentation of a cartoon strip. And of course it has to be over the top.”
Lauren had a great time. I watched her during the show and her smile was almost constant. But she could have never understood how this play, which one would think is totally dated, is not. In fact the dialogue between Maddock’s Warbucks and R.G. Miller’s Franklin D. Roosevelt (nicely performed with lots of warmth) felt like one (much more civilized, of course as things seemed then) in today’s United States House of Representatives. You see Warbucks is a Republican and Roosevelt the “New Deal” Democrat. Warbucks’s recommendation to getting people out of the streets into his factories seemed like contemporary Rachel talking points from the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.
In short this production (I cannot wait to see what Valerie Easton will do with My Fair Lady, next year) will please children of all ages but at the same time it will challenge the ideas we adults have about the social and economic pressures of our age.
Annie will be on until April 26.