With most children’s theater, you can count on an audience of mostly parents and a lot of flubbed lines.
The Brewery Arts Center in Carson City has a little surprise up its sleeve. As part of their Broadway Junior Collection, the BAC has put together a performance called Annie Jr. that is delightful, funny and that showcases a few budding stars.
The original Annie primarily stars children anyway, so it’s not unusual to see a young cast here. But to see children and teenagers playing the adult roles of Miss Hannigan, Mr. Warbucks, Warbucks’ assistant, a policeman and even a butler—well, that’s just plain funny. And I mean that in the best way possible.
The show is on an A/B cast schedule, so most roles are played by two people who alternate days. Rachel Jackson’s rendition of Miss Hannigan gives Carol Burnett a run for her money as she whines, grumps and yells at the orphan girls. Watching her sing “Little Girls” with that teased, knotted gray hair and crooked stockings is priceless.
On opening night, the role of Annie was played by Kenzie Tillitt. It was refreshing to see Annie without short red curls, although Tillitt is a red-head (we don’t want to break too much with tradition). Tillitt sings about 90 percent of the songs in the show, so it’s a good thing she’s a talented singer. Her voice is very strong. She’s not only funny but has a great range of talent that brings Annie to life.
Performances you shouldn’t miss are those of Aren Long, who plays the hilarious Sandy the dog (I can’t tell you why you’ll laugh, but I promise you will), as well as Glenn Rowley and Allison Hines, who play the greedy Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis, respectively. Rooster and Lily impersonate Annie’s redneck parents, trying to collect a cash reward. Rowley and Hines are so over the top that you can’t help but love them. During the song “Easy Street,” Hines performs a leg split that’s so convincingly painful it’s funny.
Special praise goes to Musical Director Ann Libby. Piano accompanies the entire production, almost without stopping. It’s quite a job to keep up with such a large cast, but it is done extremely well.
Several of the musical pieces involve a large cast of orphans or housekeepers who regularly rotate players. But you will fall in love with the orphans, who will win you over with how adorable and truly gifted they are.
Annie Jr. has two acts and only 11 scenes, making for a rather quick hour and a half. Each scene is short and generally includes one or two songs. A consistently rapid pace keeps your attention. All these factors make Annie Jr. an excellent idea for families and even small children.
Do the kids occasionally get off key while singing? Sure they do. But just because this is local children’s theater, don’t think for a minute that the play looks unrehearsed or unprofessional. The vocal inflections, the facial expressions and the choreography demonstrate how hard everyone worked. Most of the cast has a future in showbiz.