The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Annie Jr.
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show February 15 - March 23, 2014
Reviewer Gerry Camp

I am a fan of the original Strouse/Charnin musical “Annie.” I first saw the touring version in San Francisco after its Broadway closing, and of course I saw the Albert Finney/Carol Burnett movie. A couple of years ago I saw an outstanding local production in Prescott, Arizona, on the huge stage of their college performing arts center. So my question, going in to see the Sutter Street Theatre Family Series show “Annie Jr.” was “What is this?”

Talking with Managing Director Mike Jimena after the show, I learned that Sutter Street had hoped to do the original “Annie,” but because its Broadway revival had just closed and was touring, the rights were not available. So they settled on “Annie Jr.,” a somewhat condensed version of the play using most, but not all, of the songs the show is famous for. The licensing agreement requires that all cast members be 18 or younger.

The success of the show rests on how well it answers two questions: “Will the music hold up?” and “Will it have a believable Annie?” My answer to both questions is a resounding “Yes!”

Annie is personified by Emily Fritz. With her beautiful face and in her curly redhead wig, she totally looks like Annie, especially in the second act, when she appears in the signature Annie red dress. (The costumes, by resident designer Eileen Beaver, are excellent as always.) And the girl can sing! Since she solos on the most famous songs in the show—“Tomorrow” of course, and “Maybe” and “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”—and carries several duets and ensemble numbers, she is the key (well, one key) to the success of the music.

I met Emily’s mother during the intermission, and learned that Emily had dreamed of playing Annie since she first saw the show at age three. Not only is her singing outstanding, but her acting—even crying—is excellent. My favorite line in the show is when Annie first sees the inside of Daddy Warbucks’ mansion where she has been taken to be a Christmas guest and is asked, “What would you like to do first?” Annie, used to scrubbing the orphanage, looks around and replies, “I’ll do the floors first and then the windows.”

The second factor in the success of the music is the always excellent keyboard accompaniment of Sutter’s resident music genius, John Wilder. And I also applaud the musical direction and choreography of Connie Mockenhaupt. One of her wonderful numbers is the orphan ensemble of “It’s The Hard Knock Life.”

Casting of the supporting roles is somewhat uneven with a cast of 21 performers age 18 or younger. But I must single out the excellent work of Sarah Johnson as the vile Miss Hannigan; Eric Hurst, tall, thin, and almost bald as Daddy Warbucks; Dylan Thuss-Shelley and Amada Ramos as the fake Annie parents; and Madeline Kramer as Warbucks’ secretary and love interest, Grace. And the orphans are really wonderful.

So if you like “Annie,” or just love “Tomorrow,” I urge you to bring the kids and spend a delightful Saturday or Sunday afternoon at Sutter Street Theatre’s “Annie Jr.”

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