By Buffy Calvert
An expectant audience thronged into the gleaming ACS gym on Friday night, November 3rd, cast members’ families up front. The curtain parted on rows of cots, two sleeping girls in each. Little Molly (Christina Chakar, making her debut in a speaking role as an adorable, impish sprite) wakes up and arouses the spleen of the indomitable matron, Mrs. Hannigan, played with flair by Alexis Redden. Michaela Valkavich, in the title role, curly red hair and all, comforts Molly and all her fellow orphans.
The pathos of the downtrodden, over-worked girls, always lightened by their defiant antics, is in sharp contrast to the spite of Mrs. Hannigan and her scheming brother Rooster (Stanley Andersen) and his conniving girlfriend Lily (Leandra Edelson). They all twist our hearts by their apt songs: “Tomorrow,” “Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street.”
Onto the set, before a dramatic NYC skyline, strides the debonair billionaire Oliver Warbucks (James DePierro, as always, a commanding presence) to rescue Annie. To find her parents, he calls up his Washington contacts: FBI, CIA and, wonder of wonders, President Roosevelt himself in a cameo appearance by John Bernhardt in an old-fashioned wheelchair, joined by Tom Little as Harold Ickes and Robert Chakar as Henry Wallace. The audience was so delighted by the sight of its retired and current Superintendent/Principals hamming it up on stage that they joined in when the 3 men burst into a lusty reprise of “Tomorrow,” the new motto of the New Deal.
Sets and props slipped seamlessly into place, the lighting glowed and the whole cast sang and danced flawlessly all the way through. James Canuti and Shane Edwards added spark in small roles played with verve. Under the direction of Elaine Peck and Kellie Daino, Annie, the musical, conquered Andes. ~