If you want to see "Annie," go see "Annie." The production at Palace Theatre, directed by James Lapine, is exactly what you're expecting — no more and no less.
What's primarily lacking is the choreography by Andy Blankenbeuhler. There are several numbers begging for blowout dance sequences that simply fall short: "Hard Knock Life" and "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here," for starters; from then on, you have a sinking feeling it's just not going to get grander. Surely you were envisioning a row of dapper, acrobatic butlers or adorable orphans twirling kid-size brooms? Instead, it's a sophomoric array of stomping, swinging arms and broad gestures. Is anyone onstage a trained dancer? It's impossible to guess.
The acting upholds the exact personas you would predict: the gruff Daddy Warbucks (Anthony Warlow), the boozy Miss Hannigan (Katie Finneran). No one is inspiring (tiny orphan Molly, played by Emily Rosenfeld, comes closest), though no one is bad (Regina St. Regis, ditzed up by J. Elaine Marcos, is the biggest complaint). There's always Sandy, the trained dog onstage, to reel your attention back like a rodeo clown diverting you from the bull.
But the biggest issue with this "Annie" is that it fails to strike an honest note. There is no way for the modern audience to get an emotional foothold. Not outstanding enough to be considered escapist, it's not dark enough to ring true for today's times. Orphans become billionaires, criminals get their comeuppance and the country is saved from hard times by sheer optimism. Annie (Lilla Crawford) herself, while inarguably talented, really underscores the issue: She's just so ineffably sunny it seems like the grounded Grace Farrell (Brynn O'Malley) might consider taking her to a physician about it. The grave issues at hand — like, oh, the Depression — skirt around in the background during scene transitions, like the impoverished vendors carrying back-breaking loads while the elite heroes of the play glide by singing in their new coats. That's not hopeful, it's disturbing. If only this production were brave enough to make this juxtaposition a central theme.
But you wanted to see "Annie," and it's "Annie." It's true that half the crowd walked out happily singing the signature songs — but then again, that's also how they walked in.
If you go
'Annie The Musical'