Tough orphan girl gets a break, leaves the orphanage for a wealthy prospective foster father’s mansion, lives the dream of her life, and…
Yes, it’s “Annie,” the rousing musical and it is Gulfport Little Theatre’s latest offering.
This production knocks it out of the ballpark, despite the unlikely plot and the fact this production calls for spot-on acting, singing and dancing from a large, multi-generational cast.
It doesn’t hurt that the best songs in the piece just keep coming at you in Act 1, Scene 1.
Tough little girl Annie (to the other oprhans, “You wanna sleep with your teeth inside your mouth or out”) goes head to head with the hard-drinking rough talking orphanage matron, Miss Hannigan (“that’s enough fresh air for the month”), winningly portrayed by Haley Hirshfield. But they’re just setting the scene for the thrilling musical numbers, “Maybe,” “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow.”
These songs exemplify this show’s generosity of spirit, coating this Disney-like story with a dark edge that keeps it just real enough to make you appreciate the warm feeling you get inside as the curtain drops all too soon.
And this cast sings and dances with an energy that you have to see to believe. Everyone from toddlers to gray-haired seniors and heck, even a well-trained pooch (Libby Grove as Sandy), hit all the right notes in every single scene and song.
To be sure, few musicals bring the kind of acting talent to the stage usually reserved for dramas and comedies. Yet, Hirshfield is a delight every moment she’s on stage; Bruce Berry as Daddy Warbucks amazes with his lovely voice, yes, but his transition from jerk to kind-hearted foster parent is worth the price of admission. Claire Banke shines as Warbucks’ secretary, Grace, while Paul McGachey (Drake) is the epitome of 1930s urbanity. Double-cast roles lose nothing in transition; Bridey Walters plays Annie to the hilt and if you miss her one night, come see her the next, you’ll be glad you did.
Philip Dutton and Jose Gutierrez del Arroyo both render major star turns as the scheming Rooster Hennigan, reminding you why you loved those 1930s Hollywood musicals. Even the young supporting actors get in on the well-played act.
And can you imagine babysitting, much less directing, what seemed like 100 youthful actors, and inducing them to get every dance step, every note and every line as crisp and entertaining as it needed to be to make this show a success?
Director Cal Walters did it, and you’ll leave the theater wondering why he didn’t receive Coast Director of the Year, and why an award by that name wasn’t invented just for his work on Annie.
Walters had plenty of support from musical director Cherie Cruso Ruff and choreographers Jordan Bell and Brennah Britt, who earned their stars on the U.S. 90 Walk of Fame whether that honor ever exists or not.
Presented by: Gulfport Little Theatre
Where: Pass Road at 13th Ave.
Showtimes and dates: Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Nov. 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19; Friday and Saturday Curtain is 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinee is 2 p.m.
Cast List: Bridey Walters/Cassidy Spann (Annie); Bruce Berry (Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks); Claire Banke (Grace Farrell); Haley Hirshfeld (Miss Agatha Hannigan); Jose Gutierrez del Arroyo/Philip Dutton (Daniel “Rooster” Hannigan); Caitie Gutierrez del Arroyo (Lily St. Regis); Jay Lynn (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt); David Reeves/Corbin Jones (Bert Healy); Claire Jones, Kimberly Hess, Sonya Miller (The Boylan Sisters - Bonnie, Connie and Ronnie); Paul McGachey (Drake); Cody Ghiloni (Lt. Ward); Corbin Jones (Harold Ickes); Jim Russell (Cordell Hull, Radio Announcer); Mark Russell (Henry Morgenthau, Louis Brandeis, Artie); Kimberley Schmotzer (Francis Perkins, Mrs. Greer); Mark Otto (Bundles McCloskey); Paul Fraiser (Apple Seller); Philip Dutton (Dogcatcher); Trevor Musgrove (Asst. Dogcatcher, Marine, Jimmy Johnson); Ashleigh Sanderson (Cecille); Emily Musgrove (Annette); Michele Ponte (Mrs. Pugh, Ira); Ciara Kramer (Star-to-Be, Sophie); Caroline Connolly (Usherette); Ian Davis (Sound Effects Man, Kid); Sidney Grove (Fred McCracken); Mason Laville (Kid); Corbin Jones (Eddie); Mackenzie Ruby (Mary); Rachel Thone (Peggy); Libby Grove (Sandy the Dog)
The Principal Orphans: Mia Cheeley/Mamie Byrd (Molly); Kathryn Otto/ Faith Ponte (Kate); Morgan Valentine/Hannah Walters (Tessie); Olivia Hernstrom/Alexia Lambert (Pepper); Mackenzie Valentine/Juliette Locklar (July); Isabella Pendleton (Duffy)
Hoovervillians: Jim Russell, Philip Dutton, David Reeves, Mason Laville, Trevor Musgrove, Olivia Ruiz, Sonja Miller, Sidney Grove
Warbucks Staff: Mark Russell, Corbin Jones, Trevor Musgrove, Claire Jones, Olivia Ruiz, Mackenzie Ruby, Olivia Marcum, Jaida Trotter
Adult Ensemble: Mackenzie Ruby. Rachel Thone, Ashleigh Sanderson, Ian Davis, David Reeves, Sidney Grove, Brynn Sweetapple, Olivia Ruiz, Olivia Marcum, Jaida Trotter, Sonja Miller, Kimberley Schmotzer, Kimberly Hess
Orphan Ensemble: Megan Laville, Campbell Jakubik, Grace Stewart, Mary Evelyn Jakubik, Myleena Price, Abigail Locklar, Indyah Henshaw, Jayden Gaddes, Hollie Sprately, Isabel Ruiz, Danielle Altendorfer, Piper Sullivan, Hope Ponte, Trinity Hirshfeld, Kaylen Ghiloni, Anna Beth Hirshfeld, Sadie Sheldon, Charlotte Connolly, Mazzy Regan, Katherine Keith, Patricia Martin, Zoey Mann, Anastasia Martin, Julianna Robertson, Parker Regan, Alice Ponte
Production Crew: Director: Cal Walters; Producer: Mike Petro, Lori Grove; Assistant Director/ Stage Manager: Jennifer Ruiz; Choreography: Jordan Bell, Cal Walters; Choreography Assistant: Brennah Britt; Music Director: Cherie Cruso Ruff; Set Design: Cal Walters; Light Design: Cal Walters; Sound Design/operator: Mark Otto; Costume Design: Crystal Locklar/Josette’s; Costume Mistress: Tricia Allen; Set Construction: Mike Petro, Jay Lynn, Burton Poggensee, Cal Walters; Set Painting: Lori Trussell Spann, Cal Walters; Light Operator: Janice Murphy; Make-Up: Cody Ghiloni, Cast; Hair: Bruce Berry, Lori Grove; Props: Lori Grove, Tricia Allen; Prop Mistress: Jennifer Noll, Betsy Noll; Stage Crew: Forest Noll, Aisling Noll; Stephanie Hailes, William Meynardie; Orchestra: Cherie Cruso Ruff, Piano; Brent Ruff, Bass; Shane Henker, Winds; Zane Goodnite, Drums
Ticket Prices: $16 general admission; $13 senior/military; $11 child/student