The Broadway Musical Blog – Musical theater news and gossip from the Great White Way

Dishing out daily (or almost daily) Broadway musical news and gossip. The companion site to The Broadway Musical Home (broadwaymusicalhome.com), a directory of Broadway musicals with the story, songs, merchandise, video clips, lyrics, tickets, rights & awards for almost 200 shows.

Archive for November, 2012

WEEKLY DEAL ALERT: Get the Newsies Original Broadway Cast Album for only $5.99

Every week we scour the web to find the best musical theatre deals on cast albums, videos, sheetmusic, tickets, merchandise and more, but many items are available at these great prices for a limited time only, so grab them while you can…

$5.99 for the Newsies Original Broadway Cast Album

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WEEKLY DEAL ALERT: All PBS Great Performances and More 25% Off with Free Shipping

Every week we scour the web to find the best musical theatre deals on cast albums, videos, sheetmusic, tickets, merchandise and more, but many items are available at these great prices for a limited time only, so grab them while you can…

All PBS Great Performances and More 25% Off, with Free Shipping

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The Reviews for A Christmas Story are In…

The critics were all pleasantly surprised to actually enjoy themselves at a Christmas show. Indeed, when all the best elements from the movie were transformed into silliness like kick lines with leg lamps, huge tap numbers involving a bedlam of 9-year-olds and a child who’s tongue is stuck to a flag pole, attempting not only to talk, but to sing, they couldn’t help but get carried away in the fun. Scored perfectly, directed tightly and choreographed brilliantly, even the most critical movie-aficionado and crankiest anti-Christmas Scrooge found “A Christmas Story” an absolute delight.

NEW YORK TIMES

“You’d have to have a Grinch-size heart not to feel a smile spreading across your face when Luke Spring, a 9-year-old dynamo with feathers for feet, starts tapping his little heart out in “A Christmas Story” … Clad in a sleek black suit, his high-wattage grin beaming into the auditorium, this energetic little charmer raises such a merry clatter with his nimble dancing that it all but brings down the house….“A Christmas Story,” based onthe popular 1983 movie adapted from the writings of the radio personality Jean Shepherd, wins points for being less glitzy and more soft-spoken than the garish, overbearing musical versions of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Elf.”…Shepherd narrates the stage version in the likable person of Dan Lauria, former star of the similarly nostalgic television series “The Wonder Years.” I found the heavy doses of voice-over in the rather clunky movie to be obtrusive and irritating. Happily, the stage version lightens up a little on the cute, smart-alecky asides…making room for the music and allowing the story mostly to speak for itself. Not that there’s much story to speak of….Mr. Pasek and Mr. Paul have provided a likable, perky score that duly translates all of the major episodes in the story into appropriate musical numbers…But the sequences that make the children in the audience perk up and stop fidgeting are naturally the big dance numbers led by the smaller fry in the cast…They are wonderfully showcased in a couple of fantasy numbers that are the highlights of each act, and are choreographed with invention by Warren Carlyle.”

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HUFFINGTON POST

“The show that opened Monday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre is a charming triumph of imagination that director John Rando has infused with utter joy. It’s also a snappy piece of mature songwriting from a pair of guys barely as old as the original 1983 film. The duo, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are making their Broadway debuts with a score that is funny, nostalgic, warm and tender…The book by Joseph Robinette honors the film…The cast is led by a multi-talented Johnny Rabe as Ralphie – some performances star Joe West in the role – and a cast of skillful children, who can give the kids over at “Annie” a run for their money. One from the ensemble – 9-year-old tap dancing prodigy Luke Spring – brings the house down during a fantasy scene in a children’s speakeasy. Warren Carlyle’s inspired choreography manages to cut the sweetness with funny tart moments, such as the use of slow motion as a nod to the musical’s roots, or pyramids of people slightly off-kilter or manic elves at a department store…Purists may be upset to miss some film elements – such as Ralphie’s decoder ring – but few will walk away thinking “A Christmas Story” has been dishonored, itself a little Christmas miracle.”

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HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“No coal in the Christmas stocking for this entertaining family show, which sticks close to its source material while establishing an engaging personality of its own….A cut above the pack, it’s cute, corny, wholesome and sentimental – all basic requirements for family-friendly seasonal stage entertainment. But it also packs ample heart into its wistful glance back to a time when rewards were simpler, communities were closer-knit, and both parental and filial roles were less polluted by the infinite distractions and anxieties of contemporary life….Sturdily adapted by Joseph Robinette, it features a peppy, period-flavored score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. With their catchy lyrics and robust melodies, the songs strengthen the characters and situations, dropped in at just the right time to enhance and propel the story….Director John Rando and choreographer Warren Carlyle’s clever use of the dozen talented triple-threat kids in the cast is a winning ingredient. On the surface, Robinette’s work as book writer might appear elementary, but it takes skill to cover every vignette from a movie without merely checking obligatory references off a list…This is an ensemble show rather than a vehicle for star turns, but Lauria’s warmly authoritative presence provides a binding element, and Rabe gives Ralphie irrepressible spirit. Bolton deserves special mention, making Ralphie’s dad a gangly human cartoon, both gruff and affectionate….Unexpectedly, the show pulses with genuine feeling, which should guarantee return engagements.”

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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“Don’t expect an exact replica of the movie….The film evokes a certain screwball nature that has become as synonymous with the holiday season as candy canes. But the stage adaptation plays like a heart-tugging, best-of version of the movie, with a saccharine score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Joseph Robinette that desperately panders for laughs….The most iconic moments from the original story have been morphed into entire scenes or songs or running gags…Some of it works beautifully…Odd[ly] yes, but somehow it works. In fact, most of the songs are solid, although there are no real new Christmas classics in the mix…[but] one of the classroom kids — the tiniest, cutest one, Luke Spring — breaks into a tap routine that would draw applause from the likes of Sammy Davis Jr….The musicals’ pleasures are far and wide: Dan Lauria is steady as an older version of Ralphie, who narrates the story. Johnny Rabe, who played Ralphie at my performance (Joe West plays some performances), did a nice job of wrangling the curmudgeonly, hopeful nature of his character…The show feels too long…And Ralphie’s mom (Erin Dilly) feels like a too-sugary shell of the kookily frazzled character…on screen. And of course, the whole production is super-duper schmaltzy….For the most part, A Christmas Story: The Musical is exactly what you expect.”

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The Reviews for Scandalous are in…

 

The reviews are in for Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, and it seems as though critics would have enjoyed a whole lot more scandal.  Carolee Carmello brings to life the title role, and provides the only real entertainment of the night — her voice is powerful and emotional, making the most of otherwise uninteresting numbers.  A driving force behind the production, Kathie Lee Gifford is responsible for the tired book and lyrics while David Pomeranz and David Friedman put their names on the music.  If you seek a strong musical performance, go see Carolee Carmello, but audience beware, don’t try looking for anything more.

NEW YORK TIMES

““The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson,” as the show is subtitled, are actually much more fascinating than you would gather from this formulaic Broadway musical. With book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford and music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman, “Scandalous,” which opened on Thursday night at the Neil Simon Theater, condenses and rearranges McPherson’s story to fit smoothly into the familiar grooves of celebrity biography. In the process the show reduces McPherson’s remarkable life to a cliché-bestrewn fable about the wages of fame….Broadway jackals suspicious of [Kathy Lee] Gifford’s bona fides were surely hoping for an epoch-making turkey in time for Thanksgiving. Sorry, guys. “Scandalous” isn’t so much scandalously bad as it is generic and dull….True, collectors of camp might find some minor pleasures in the splashy biblical pageants of the second act, when McPherson, portrayed with hearty gumption by Carolee Carmello, looks on with a twinkly eye as Adam and Eve chomp from a sequined apple, or vamps as an alluring Delilah as Samson groans in beefcake bondage….God and the good works (and mostly bad musicals) he inspires are almost reduced to a walk-on in “Scandalous,” which plays down McPherson’s extraordinary ministry and spends most of its time dramatizing the punishing peaks and valleys of her personal life.”

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AM NEW YORK

“The Tony Award for fearless determination – if such a thing actually existed, ought to go to Kathie Lee Gifford. She has been developing and promoting her musical “Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson” – for which she wrote the lyrics, book and even some of the music – for more than a decade….The score – the work of no less than three composers – mainly consists of generic samplings from various genres: Irish jig, beer hall anthem, tambourine-shaking prayer and so on. Carolee Carmello, who has spent the past few years alternating between the tryouts of “Scandalous” and stints in “Mamma Mia!,” throws all of her dramatic and vocal intensity into the role, but it is an off-putting, aggressive performance. Tony winner George Hearn plays two negligible roles. Such is what happens when you get too old to play Sweeney Todd again”

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NEWSDAY

“There is nothing remotely scandalous about “Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson,” the biographical musical that has book, lyrics and additional music by Kathie Lee Gifford. Despite the inevitable celebrity-lite target on Gifford’s back, the musical about the media-star Christian evangelist of the 1920s does not have the toxic aura of a vanity production. It is well-produced and professional. It’s also not interesting, alas, at least not interesting enough to sustain 21/2 hours of fast-forward storytelling and inspirational songs that almost always end in throbbing climax. At least as problematic is the bombardment of nursery-rhyme lyrics…But we have a reason to give thanks, and that is Carolee Carmello. One of our most deeply wonderful, inexplicably underutilized singing actors, Carmello finally gets a giant vehicle that needs her massive talents….Despite the monotony of the touch-what-you-dream songs (music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman), Carmello alone makes Aimee’s journey feel as adventurous as it clearly was.”

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TALKIN’ BROADWAY

“The musical that just opened at the Neil Simon is distinctive in not one positive way, but it’s nearly impossible to wrench your gaze from its glitz-drenched train wreck thanks to its sublime star, Carolee Carmello. Gifted as an actress and even better as a belter, Carmello could hardly have begged for a more doting showcase vehicle for her considerable talents than this one about 20th-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). Kathie Lee Gifford (book, lyrics, and additional music) and David Pomeranz and David Friedman (music) have provided Carmello with countless opportunities to flaunt her golden pipes, embody bone-deep glamor, and attract the audience with the kind of comforting embrace modern-day headliners are so seldom allowed to deploy….Carmello sails through all this, and quite a bit more, with such ease that you can’t help but be positive she does it 20 times before breakfast every morning, and sings an astonishing amount of vocally taxing material even though she spends all but a few scant minutes onstage, trying to win us over to her cause. That she comes within millimeters of succeeding is still more impressive given the obstacles she’s up against. For what the writers and director David Armstrong foist upon her — and by extension us — is enough to propel the most devout believer into a spiritual crisis…Carmello’s stunning singing, at once brassy and hypnotic and warm, cannot compensate for the utter lack of memorable music, even among the faux-energetic gospel romps, or a halfway-witty lyric, anywhere in the bulging song stack — a big problem for a musical promoting the importance show biz’s value as a medium of communication. The jokes are lame, yes (“I swear some of these Christians are so pious, they just pious me off!”), but the story is impossible to follow, with no character other than Aimee given so much as three minutes of close attention….Based on how high Carmello elevates Aimee beyond what’s on the page, no one need fear for her career. Scandalous itself, however, looks well beyond saving.”

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BACKSTAGE

“The American Theatre Wing might as well give Carolee Carmello her Tony Award now. Just like her alter ego for the evening, early-20th-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, Carmello is performing miracles, only hers are onstage at the Neil Simon Theatre. In “Scandalous,” the seasoned stage veteran’s top billing is a credit to her performance rather than to her bankability—there’s book writer and lyricist Kathie Lee Gifford for that—and Carmello deserves it, delivering one of the season’s must-see performances (she’s onstage for all but 11 minutes of the show’s two-and-a-half hours). Unfortunately, Carmello’s miracle work doesn’t extend to Gifford’s flimsy, expository musical, which features uncertain direction by David Armstrong….Gifford’s book and lyrics sound like she transcribed McPherson’s Wikipedia page and had it set to music. Carmello is asked to relay countless monologues, usually while stripping off Gregory A. Poplyk’s suitable period costumes to reveal another outfit. (The actor transitions from Aimee at 16 to Aimee at 50 with remarkable ease.) The reason to put a story onstage is to theatricalize it. When Carmello sings, there’s magic in the theater, even if David Pomeranz and David Friedman’s tunes are generic (Gifford also gets a credit for “additional music”). Joel Fram’s music direction and vocal arrangements, though, are an absolute delight. The revival scenes feel like a religious experience, thanks to a winning ensemble and Lorin Latarro’s peppy choreography….There will be bumps in the road this season—and “Scandalous” may be one of them—but there is absolutely no doubt that Carmello is a Broadway superhero.”

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The Reviews for The Mystery of Edwin Drood are In…

The word is out — The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a raucous good time, even if it does exchange sincerity for camp. The production features fully committed and highly entertaining performances from most of the cast, most notably Chita Rivera as Princess Puffer and Jim Norton as the MC.  Most known for letting its nightly audience indict the story’s bad guy, this revival of the 1985 production boasts energy and hilarity, focusing more on fun than on the actual mystery.  The critics seem to enjoy it, especially those expecting more silliness and less sophistication.

NEW YORK TIMES

“With the explosion of social media inspiring a taste for talking back, the time seems especially ripe for the Roundabout Theater Company’s boisterous revival of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” the 1985 Broadway musical that allows audiences to savor the satisfactions of impersonating Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, pointing an accusatory finger at a cowering culprit….The pleasure of fingering a killer is not the only one afforded by Scott Ellis’s exuberant production, which opened on Tuesday night at Studio 54. In an era when Broadway revivals of beloved musicals can seem dispiritingly skimpy, this handsome production offers a generous feast for the eyes, trimmed in holiday cheer for an added spritz of currency….And the evening’s performers — including a bona fide Broadway grande dame, Chita Rivera; a host of plush-voiced singers; and the jovial imp Jim Norton as the evening’s M.C. — throw themselves into the winking spirit of the show….Despite its varied charms, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” remains a musical that ultimately adds up to less than the sum of its hard-working parts….The musical “Edwin Drood” at least leaves behind moments of shimmering musical pleasure to savor, long after the miscreant of the night has been booed off the stage.”

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WASHINGTON POST

“Perhaps the best part is watching the first-rate cast have so much fun — Stephanie J. Block shows real comedic power, Jim Norton is having a ball, Chita Rivera is giggly, Gregg Edelman is just silly and Will Chase is over-acting perfectly….Scott Ellis’ direction is tight — there’s almost 20 songs, more than 20 actors and multiple identities being juggled — and yet he’s allowed pockets of genuine mirth to open for the veterans on stage to goof around….The jokes are hoary, the songs are ditties (”Off to the Races” is the best known) and the mystery not so mysterious — “You might like to add that line to your list of suspicious statements!” says one character to the audience — but the fun is infectious, even if it seems that the folks on stage might be having more of it than the paying guests….Other highlights include an opium dream beautifully realized by choreographer Warren Carlyle and Anna Louizos’ sets that includes a terrific steam-puffing train. William Ivey Long seems to have had as much fun making the lush costumes…Although “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” won Tony Awards for best musical, best book and best score in 1985, this is the first time it has returned to Broadway. The reason may be simple: In the wrong hands, it can sit awkwardly in a Broadway house — too zany, too arch. But these are the right hands: There are veterans at every turn.”

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HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“Regardless of the accomplished cast and sparkling design and direction in Roundabout’s Broadway revival, nothing great can come of mediocre material. The show’s biggest selling point is the novelty of having the audience vote to decide the murderer’s identity at every performance. But the charms of this rollicking pastiche are otherwise intermittent….Holmes’ show scores points for ingenuity, but it often feels like being stuck for too long in front of an olde-worlde department-store window display. A vehicle running 2½ hours needs more memorable songs than these mostly interchangeable parlor ditties, and more engaging characters than this bunch, which by design, are cardboard cutouts enlivened by melodramatic flourishes. A genuinely intriguing mystery rather than a half-baked whodunit devoid of psychological complexity wouldn’t hurt either….Director Scott Ellis, set designer Anna Louizos and costumer William Ivey Long all do fine work conjuring London’s Music Hall Royale in 1895…And the cast appears to be having a ball. They double as characters within the evening’s presentation and the ensemble of second-rate resident players and guests hired to impersonate them, ranging from self-adoring stars to ambitious upstarts to shameless hams. Chief among them is the wonderful Irish actor Jim Norton…With his hoary double entendres, Norton makes an effortless master of ceremonies, as at ease with the stage business as he is with the winking innuendo of lining up companionship for single gents in the audience. Ad-libbing occasionally, he strikes the ideal jaunty tone to resuscitate this very British popular entertainment of a bygone era…But all the affectionately antiquated whimsy never quite adds up to robust entertainment.”

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AM NEW YORK

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood, inspired by an unfinished Charles Dickens novel, is one of the most inventive, inspired and rousing musicals ever devised. And it is a pleasure to report that the Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival is thoroughly well-cast and extremely enjoyable….As atmospherically staged by Scott Ellis, with sprightly choreography by Warren Carlyle and excellent music direction by Paul Gemignani, this production is a reminder that well-known musicals do not need to be reconstructed or darkened for their revivals. If the show is strong, have faith in it and all will fall into place.”

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NEWSDAY

“This is a novelty item, tricked-up with cutesy tangents as a play-within-a-play at a provincial English music hall. Everyone in director Scott Ellis’ wonderful-looking production works very hard at jollying up the audience at the start, rallying a sing-a-long and, ultimately, conducting the voting. Then, the murderer confesses in song. The show does have some jaunty, quasi-operetta music with beautiful harmonic blends and a ravishing cast — including Chita Rivera as Princess Puffer, madam of the opium den, and Jessie Mueller as the slinky-to-her-eyebrows Helena Landless, who, with her brother (Andy Karl) brings a bit of Colonial commentary as the exotics from Ceylon. Jim Norton maneuvers around the fast-patter songs with aplomb as the emcee; Stephanie J. Block is authoritative as Drood, the young gentleman who disappears. His beloved (Betsy Wolfe) is coveted by the opium fiend-music teacher (Will Chase)….Instead of trusting the characters and the mystery to build the suspense, however, Holmes aims for the campy, tiresome and childish. To vote, one presumably cares about who does what to whom. Considering Dickens’ storytelling genius, the real mystery is why this isn’t fun.”

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WEEKLY DEAL ALERT: The Book of Mormon: The Testament of a Broadway Musical

Every week we scour the web to find the best musical theatre deals on cast albums, videos, sheetmusic, tickets, merchandise and more, but many items are available at these great prices for a limited time only, so grab them while you can…

The Book of Mormon: The Testament of a Broadway Musical

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The Reviews for Annie are In…

The reviews for Annie are in and critics couldn’t be more pleased with the timing of a dog named Sandy bounding onstage to help heal the woes left by the hurricane of the same name. The show’s big name, Katie Finneran, receives mixed reviews for her performance of Miss Hannigan, but Lilla Crawford as Annie and Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks, both receive huge accolades for their tremendous performances. The critics agree that the show is exactly what New York needs right now, and though a few long for the original production, most are happy to have this revival sounding out: “The sun will come out tomorrow!”

NEW YORK TIMES

“Say what you will about the current version of “Annie,” which is directed with a slightly tremulous hand by James Lapine and features the virtuosic Katie Finneran as the villainous Miss Hannigan, you can’t fault the timing of its return to Broadway…. Even the dewiest, pluckiest ingénue would have a hard time staying fresh once she became an endlessly re-marketable brand name. That’s the challenge faced by Mr. Lapine and company, and it is met a tad uneasily…. It would seem that Mr. Lapine is hoping to introduce at least a tincture of psychological shading to a show that is only, and unapologetically, a singing comic strip…. The delicate-featured but indefatigable Ms. Crawford, who is possessed of both a golden glow and a voice of brass, is pretty close to perfect in the title role.”

Read the full Annie review

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“Could the timing be any better for a Broadway revival of Annie?… While it downplays the comic-strip origins in subtle ways, James Lapine’s production sensibly chooses not to reinvent the 1977 musical, which won seven Tony Awards and ran for close to six years its first time around. Returning to Broadway almost three decades later, this enduring ode to optimism remains a sterling example of expert musical-theater craftsmanship….Hardcore fans may find it lacking in the property’s traditional brash vibrancy, but what makes this revival disarming is that it’s cute without being cutesy and sweet without being saccharine….But the heart of the show, as it should be, is Crawford’s Annie. The 11-year-old actress has the vocal chops necessary to sock the songs across, but also the tough pragmatism to command a roomful of heavyweight politicians without coming off as obnoxious….Overall, this is a winning presentation of an unapologetically sentimental show that tips its hat to an earlier era in musical theater, before the age of cynicism and industrial spectacle redefined the Broadway model.”

Read the full Annie review

NEWSDAY

“For all the freight of timeliness, this remains a sweet spot of a family musical, full of adorable, but not sticky-adorable, waifs punching the air with their teeny fists and belting “Tomorrow” over and over until every cynic within earshot might be a believer. Director James Lapine’s handsome yet lovable vision finds the emotional core without losing the cartoon magic. There is a modesty, a humanity within the spectacle that helps the too-large theater feel embracing….As Annie, Lilla Crawford has a self-possessed intelligence — we’d call it gravitas if that sounded more like fun. She also has lungs to match her big presence, and a cool coiffeur that says Bernadette Peters more than a tot in an orange fright wig. I’ll hear no negative words about Katie Finneran, who, unlike her much-admired campier predecessors, makes Miss Hannigan both a cruel clown and a genuinely erotic creature whose thwarted ambitions seem just the slightest bit sad. Anthony Warlow makes an empathetic Daddy Warbucks, Brynn O’Malley has smarts as his assistant, and Clarke Thorell and J. Elaine Marcos are properly nefarious con artists.”

Read the full Annie review

WASHINGTON POST

“Infused with zip and charm by its sensational Annie, Noo-Yawk-tawkin’ Lilla Crawford, the show, slickly staged by James Lapine, tells you that any city or nation keeping faith with the future will rise again, come hell or high water….So it is with this handsome revival, infinitely superior to the previous Broadway incarnation, a woefully bedraggled 1997 staging…that ran for only 239 performances. One suspects that this kid- and adult-pleasing version, enhanced by Anthony Warlow’s gruff and robustly sung Daddy Warbucks, will be ensconced at the Palace for far longer….Accelerating quickly into shrillness…Finneran doesn’t let the audience fully embrace her joyous malevolence. We never feel enlisted in her quest to rise from the ranks of the losers. Thanks, though, to li’l Lilla and a superbly assembled cast of supporting orphans…the sentimental center of Annie holds, just fine.”

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

“The slow-to-start musical features an appealing 11-year-old Lilla Crawford in the title role, an overcooked Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan and a first-rate Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks…If Finneran is big and brassy and broad, Warlow is the opposite. This Australian actor brings gravitas and a sumptuous voice to Warbucks. His is a performance of subtlety, of small eyebrow movements….While Crawford is excellent, as is usually the case with “Annie,” a younger orphan often steals your heart. In this show, that would be Emily Rosenfeld as Molly, who is cuter than a dump truck of plush teddy bears.”

Read the full Annie review

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