Recent months have made most of us feel that it is a “Hard Knock Life.”
Quarantining; canceling gatherings; mask wearing, upending the regular rituals of life. Mitchell Area Community Theatre and director Al Jacklin have taken on the challenge of giving us a little glimpse of “Tomorrow” with their production of the Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Harnin’s musical “Annie” based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip.
Since it debuted in 1976 on Broadway, this iconic musical has become a part of the American Theatre canon. It’s a story of abandonment, deprivation, redemption and hope. Set in the 1930s the eponymous Annie has been left to the care of a hopelessly rundown New York City orphanage. She is ever the optimist, believing that her parents will return to claim her back into a warm and welcoming home life. Annie’s buoyant personality attracts the attention of billionaire Oliver Warbucks and his capable assistant, Grace. Through song and dance and a sweet performance by a golden retriever, Annie finds a family, although not the one she could have ever envisioned.
Quinn Culhane’s Annie is perfectly cast. She is a strong singer with the large show numbers and an empathetic and evocative actress. Steve Morgan returns to the state as Warbucks and Noel Ahler’s maternal Grace serves as the perfect mother figure. Many laughs are provided by Renee Schoenfelder’s performance as the mean and miserly Miss Hannigan whose mismanagement of the orphanage has deprived her charges of even basic necessities.
An ensemble cast of adult and child actors rounds out every scene. The girls’ performance of “It’s The Hard Knock LIfe” is a treat, with carefully choreographed percussion. Morgan’s heartfelt performance of the ballad “N.Y.C.” will tug at your heartstrings. Most audience members know the show stopping anthem “Tomorrow,” but my favorite of Culhane’s numbers was the lullaby “Maybe.” The closing number “A New Deal for Christmas/Tomorrow” brought the Friday night audience to its feet; a wonderful way to end a fine performance.
This show faced many obstacles coming to fruition. Jacklin is to be commended, along with his predecessor, Devin Carey, who had to make the difficult decision to delay when all spring activities were halted. Vocal coaching by Jonathon Freeman, Tammy Parks and Kim Bruguier was evident in the quality of singing. The musical accompaniment is prerecorded and works well, a product of the theatre company’s investment in a new sound system. The costumes by Darcy Vermeulen and Ruth Sejnoha are period-perfect, especially Annie’s recognizable red dress. The set by Jacklin, Terri Jacklin, Noem Ahlers and Mark Davis is modular and movable, depicting several settings with quick resets.
ACT has limited seating for the performances and has developed a number of protocols to ensure patron safety. This hard-working crew of volunteers deserves our support to help keep the theatre company operational. If you are hesitant to attend because of health and safety, I would encourage you to make a donation or purchase a membership so that this wonderful community asset will have their “Tomorrow,” come what may.
The show by Area Community Theatre has performances Thursday, Aug. 13; Friday, Aug. 14; and Saturday, Aug. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 16, at 2 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the theater or more information is available at 996-9137 or www.mitchellact.org.