By GARY CONNOR
Not too long ago a good friend of mine observed, “I’m reminded there is so much talent in Palestine every time I attend a production at the Texas Theater.” Actually, we were both sitting in the audience just moments before the curtain went up on the opening night performance of “Annie.”
From curtain up to curtain call, my friends words echoed in my ears. “Annie” is replete with not just good performances, but rather, great performances by the entire cast.
The story follows Annie from a Depression-era orphanage to life with billionaire businessman Daddy Warbucks. Along the way, she inspires FDR’s “New Deal” for down and out Americans. And, in a broader sense, the performance by the cast of “Annie” clearly inspires the audience as well.
The story is ageless and entertains the very young as well as the very old. Extraordinarily entertaining, “Annie” showcases the very best talent our community has to offer. The cast is vivacious and filled with theatrical energy.
Eleven-year-old Hannah Weber makes a feisty Annie in her first lead role. And, Miss Weber earns high marks for a voice as big as Anderson County in her big solo, “Tomorrow.”
She is cast well and her interpretation of Annie, a young girl full of pluck and determination, unbowed by the hard-knock life she has been dealt, is exemplary.
What great story, musical or otherwise, is complete without an appropriate antagonist? In a melodrama it is the villain dressed in black. In “Annie” it is Miss Hannigan, brought to the Texas Theater stage by Sonia Martinez.
Annie’s nemesis, the villainous Miss Hannigan, sways and slurs her character effortlessly into the role of the boozy orphanage matron while relishing every second of her toxin filled solo performance, “Little Girls.”
Jim Vincill brings convincingly easy going savoir faire to the Daddy Warbucks role. A veteran of the Texas Theater stage, Jim brings personality and believability to this lead character who learns with the help of Annie there is more to life than billions of greenbacks.
Rooster and Lily, portrayed by Adam Hobbs and Olivia Santone, a ruthless pair of n’er do wells, team up with Miss Hannigan for a rendition of “Easy Street” that leaves the opening night audience cheering for more of the villainous trio.
Dr. Jan Sikes as Grace, Daddy Warbuck’s personal assistant, may have the clearest voice in the Lone Star State. Her characterization is both thorough and consistent every time she is on stage.
“Annie” is creatively staged, a significant challenge with a tenement full of orphan waifs, but director Chaundra Dantin handles the blocking of each scene beautifully.
Realistic and creative stage business for young actors is frequently difficult to achieve, but these young actors and actresses are believable from lights up to lights down.
From a rundown New York tenement and the mean streets of the Big Apple to Warbuck’s glamorous uptown penthouse, the set design is replete with authenticity, clarity and appropriateness.
The musical numbers and the choreography keep the musical production in motion. “Easy Street” and the perky “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here” will have you patting your foot while “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” will, indeed, dress you with a smile.
Overall, the Palestine Community Theatre’s “Annie” fills the stage of the Texas Theater with wonderful story, song and dance. Dantin and assistant director Dana Goolsby had led the extremely large cast to a superior production.
Performances will continue July 26-28 and Aug. 2-4. Shows on Fridays and Saturdays start at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $8 for students and children ages 4 to 18 and $12 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at Dogwood Diner, the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce and Education Unlimited. Tickets also can be purchased online at www.outhousetickets.com.
The Texas Theater is located at 213 W. Crawford St. in downtown Palestine.