Annie Warbucks mansion

Above: Annie (Caitlin Frazer) and Daddy Warbucks (Simon Militano) with ensemble. Featured image: Miss Hannigan (Susie Blackwell) and orphans.

At the centre of ANNIE the musical is a great big heart, a fully dressed smile and bucketloads of energetic optimism. Mosman Musical Society’s recent production, as directed by Jody Rose, stays true to these required features.

Principal cast members and the versatile ensemble preserve the traditional caricatures within this tale. The reactions of individuals and the group in this production clearly outline the tone of 1930’s New York in need of a ‘New Deal’ and a better life.

Also pivotal to the success of this performance is the role of Annie as securely played by Caitlin Frazer. Her performance is full of optimism and uses an appropriate and consistent accent in spoken and sung moments. Frazer interacts well with the young and adult cast.

The orphanage girls are well cast and perform throughout with their range of personalities and reactions secure. Their version of A Hard Knock Life features good unison and individual work. Suzie Blackwell’s colourful, caustic Miss Hannigan, confounded by the children and life in general, is a pleasure to watch. Susan Boyle’s costuming of this and indeed all characters is detailed and suitably varied.

The roles of Hannigan’s shyster brother Rooster (Tom Harwood) and female sidekick Lily St Regis (Emma Frisina) burst onto the stage, and in or out of disguise, with considerable verve. Their song Easy Street featuring the desperate Miss Hannigan is quite the slick rendition with a nice use of the stage.

Such well-known ensemble songs endure in this show with familiarity, punchy musical support and enthusiastic delivery. Staging for numbers such as Today We’re Living in a Shanty and NYC is dynamic and successful with good contribution from all cast members.

The Oxydent Hour of Smiles Program, at the somewhat bizarre NBC radio station setting, flows well for Annie’s plea to find her parents. Here, as throughout the show, ensemble cast members morph into their latest identities with ease.

In the intimate space of Chatswood’s Zenith Theatre the set panels and props used work well and the scene changes are swift. The production has the musicians positioned at the rear of the stage.  This decision works well, though it is somewhat distracting to see the band clearly in moments such as the opening orphanage scene where there are no backdrop panels and the set structure is low.

It is an achievement of Rose’s direction along with the choreography by Emma Frisina to work the crowd and the props well across the space. Both children and adults feature in the dance and crowd sequences, there is a roller-skater and also the best-behaved Sandy the dog (Bella Dance) I have seen in many Annie shows. They all combine well to come up with exciting and colourful full cast scenes.

At the Warbucks mansion, humanity and welcoming adult security is ably provided by Simon Militano in the role of Daddy Warbucks. His calm, in character spontaneity and smooth tenor voice are a show highlight. Militano is well supported by another fine voice and nice example of stagecraft in Heather Campbell’s Grace Farrell. Jake Buratti is a very believable butler.

The ensemble featured in the mansion are impeccably costumed and their exchanges are fluid though on occasion they overpowered by the instrumental accompaniment. Twists and turns in Annie’s search for her old and new family are managed well in this setting and the show ends on a high point in the luxurious residence.

This is an enthusiastic version of the musical ANNIE. Mosman Musical Society’s production treats fans to all the show’s favourite elements as well as adding some entertaining tweaks.

Newcomers to the show will also have a great time. As the story unfolds they will witness a very talented performer in Caitlin Frazer in the title role with a colourful supporting cast who urge us on, with genuine sincerity, to look towards a bright future.

ANNIE continues at the Zenith Theatre this Thursday, Friday and Saturday June 23 to June 25 at 7:30pm with a Saturday matinee on June 25 at 2pm.