You’re never fully dressed without a smile

Annie brings smiles to theatregoers

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The Lawton Community Theatre finally held their production of Annie. Originally scheduled for September, COVID-19 kept the show from going on. The show closed Sunday to a packed house.

Annie, the original Broadway production, opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, setting a record for the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre). The show won seven Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical's songs "Tomorrow" and "It's the Hard Knock Life" are among its most popular musical numbers.

Annie is based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie. Set during the Great Depression, Annie, portrayed by Cassie Magrath of Lawton, and the other orphans are forced to work their fingers to the bone to “make this dump shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.”

Annie is eventually asked to come stay with Oliver Warbucks, the billionaire, for Christmas. Warbucks was played by Albert Rivas, a huge supporter of all things theatre. Rivas was perfect for the role of Daddy Warbucks. His voice, his mannerisms – he was the embodiment of Daddy Warbucks. It was the first time I’d seen him in a production, and I hope I get to see him in other things in the future.

Warbucks wants to adopt Annie, but Annie insists she has parents who are looking for her, so they go on a radio show with Bert Healy, played by Walden Beck. Warbucks offers $50,000 dollars to anyone who can prove they are Annie’s parents.

Thousands of people try to scam Warbucks out of the $50,000, including Miss Hannigan, the head of the orphanage, played by Melissa Kimball. Kimball was a great Miss Hannigan. She is a fabulous vocalist, and her portrayal of Miss Hannigan was hilarious. William said she was one of his favorite characters. Miss Hannigan’s brother, Rooster, played by LCT’s own Bryson Petersen, and his girlfriend Lily, played by Petersen’s real-life girlfriend Mikki Hankins, connive with Miss Hannigan to get the $50,000 by pretending to be Annie’s parents.

Eventually, it’s discovered that Annie’s parents are dead, and Miss Hannigan, Rooster, and Lily are arrested.

This show was well-cast. I have yet to attend a show at LCT that wasn’t cast well. From the very beginning, when Magrath’s Annie begins singing “Maybe,” you knew you were in for a great show. Magrath was an entertaining and adorable Annie. She performed well and the audience clearly loved her. Magrath’s solo musical numbers included “Maybe,” and “Tomorrow,” but she also performed in several other numbers, including “Hard-Knock Life” and “I Don’t Need Anything but You.” She has the makings of a great stage vocalist and actress and I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.

The orphans were extremely entertaining. They performed the choreography during musical numbers like champions. My favorite was “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” The audience shared my enthusiasm for this number, judging by the reactions of those inside the full theatre.

The orphans were played by:

  • Anistyn Abshere – Duffy
  • Collyns Hale – July
  • Cooper Painter – Kate
  • Teagan Schmidt – Molly
  • Brinkley Caudill – Tessie
  • Grace Morin – Pepper
  • Alayna Diane Castro
  • Shalynn Alverson, and
  • Peyton Young

Other standout performances include Rooster and Lily. They were hilarious and kept the audience laughing every time they were on stage. However, the best performance of the show, in my opinion, was Miss Hannigan, Rooster, and Lily performing “Easy Street.” The choreography was great, and they performed it seemingly with ease. It’s no easy feat performing choreography while singing but these three did it amazingly.

Although only on stage for a short time, I have to say the Boylan Sisters were also one of my favorite performances of the show. Their harmonies blended perfectly. I would certainly not want to be tasked with casting a show, ever. Petersen (Technical Director) and Chance Harmon (Managing Director) make it look so easy. They always cast shows based on the talent of the actor, how the actors work together, how their voices sound together, etc. and it always comes together as a brilliant production, no matter the show.

Even when it’s a show they don’t particularly care for (looking at you Petersen, Aladdin-hater) the show ends up great. Petersen said he could have cast Aladdin a million different ways and it would have been a great show, but before he directed it, he said it was one of his least favorite shows. You never would have known that based on how great the production was.

Although I had no kids in this production, I made sure I saw it because as Rivas said after closing last Sunday, this isn’t just a group of actors and actresses – it’s a family.

“Sometimes theatre family is thicker than blood,” he said.

Harmon, Petersen, Hankins, and many others from LCT always make sure they support their actors in whatever show they’re in, even when they’re at different theatres, in different towns.

I will always be thankful to the staff and supporters at LCT for giving my kids a chance when they were new to the theatre world. William has gotten consistently better with each role he wins, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Other great performances in Annie came from Warbucks (Rivas), Grace Farrell (Morgan Dayley), and Roosevelt (Chance Harmon). I hope they will all be in future productions because I would enjoy seeing them again.

If you missed Annie in Altus earlier this year, and in Lawton last week, you have another chance to catch a production beginning Nov. 19, 2021, at the Wichita Theatre in Wichita Falls, Texas. Or, if you’d rather catch a stage production from the comfort of your own living room, you can catch NBC’s live production of Annie on Dec. 2, 2021.

Visit lctok.com to see what’s coming up for the rest of LCT’s 70th anniversary season.

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