‘Annie’ must rank among the absolute greatest odes to optimism in the Western popular cultural cannon.
CAST: LILLA FLEISCHMANN, CHARON WILLIAMS ROS, NEELS CLASEN, TARYN SUDDING, STEPHEN JUBBER, DELRAY HALGRYN, MIKE HUFF
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: BRYAN SCHIMMEL
CHOREOGRAPHER: NICK WINSTON
DIRECTOR: NIKOLAI FOSTER
VENUE: Artscape Opera House until January 8
REVIEWER: PETER TROMP
‘Annie’ must rank among the absolute greatest odes to optimism in the Western popular cultural cannon. The mechanism that a meeting with a little girl, indefatigable as she may be, sparked the idea for the New Deal amongst President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his cabinet and that led to decades of U.S. prosperity may be contrived in the extreme, but what it illustrates is that hope always imbues in one the sense that there are avenues to be explored, no matter the direness of any situation.
Hope is something that is in short supply in ZA right now, but if there is one thing that ‘Annie’ gets across with such precision, it is to never give in to despair.
The delivery of that simple message (perhaps too simplistic for some), driven home with conviction by this sparkling SA production, is almost worth the price of admission alone. It also helps that this is a quality production, verging on being technically flawless, and radiating charm around every corner. The music may be the best I have seen executed in a musical since the phantasmagorical ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in 2011 (gee-whiz; has it really been five years?).
Feel-good entertainments can often feel forced in the way they go about pleasing (pandering) to their audiences. Being amongst the very few who has never seen ‘Annie’ in any form, I was pleasantly surprised that the show has such a pleasing progression and that its chief message is conveyed with such elegance. It might have something to do with the universally excellent cast and the conviction on display from every cast member, but I found myself totally relenting to ‘Annie’s’ zesty optimism and left the theatre feeling so much better than when I entered it.
Oh; and the diminutive Lilla Fleischmann, who is alternating in the main role with two other actresses, didn’t put a foot wrong on opening night – a phenomenal achievement for a performer so young. Be prepared to fall totally in love with the super impressive Fleischmann if you get to see her on the night you attend the show.
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