A heartfelt trumpet rendition of the classic "Tomorrow" introduced the audience to Riverview's "Annie." The curtain unveiled a glum and impoverished New York City orphanage. Inside were orphans catching up on Z's rather than carrying a tune. Shivering in ragged clothes these girls were suffering from the effects of the 1930's Great Depression. However, this is not a tale of sorrow, this is "Annie"!
Maddie Kocur's exciting performance as Annie fooled everyone watching. Instead of feeling as if we were seeing a ninth-grader acting on the Riverview stage, we all marveled over the strength of one spunky orphan. For the audience, falling and dewy eyed went hand in hand when she sang "Tomorrow." Aileen Quinn, the original Annie, would be proud to see young Maddie Kocur perfecting the good old Annie charm. She was truly endearing.
Riverview's setting was quite realistic and well painted. It captured the downtrodden and the opulent moments in "Annie." An innovative trick by the crew was creating an extended set where two buildings became Miss Hannigan's bedroom or Oliver Warbucks' office. Additionally the makeup emphasized those dying of cold, living in poverty, or on the other hand well- fed.
The pit set a jolly mood and harmoniously blended with the action on stage. Here and there the musicians made mistakes but nothing that took away from the performance. The young actors did not forget themselves.
They always remembered to act out their particular character; hence there was an overwhelming stage presence that made everything realistic and enjoyable.
Then the cast would hop and leap about and before you knew it they were executing a dance number. There was movement found in the musical that was difficult to pull off, such as cross-throughs, standing on the backs of people, and the carrying of "Annie" in a laundry bag. Wow. Difficult choreography was mastered by the cast.
One particular number was when the orphans sang "Hard Knock Life" -- it was unbelievable, running around like rowdy little kids yet keeping in tune without losing their breath, all the while sounding better than the original. Then there was "Easy Street" sung by Jocelyn Hong as Miss Hannigan, Ben Forbeck as Rooster Hannigan, and Kelly O'Donnell as Lily St. Regis. They did a kick line while a red light focused on the sinister trio.
Oh wait, how could I forget her furious yelling when it amped up the crowd? How could I not mention how Miss Hannigan grabbed the orphans by the collar all the while becoming inebriated by each sip of her "medicine"? And the entire audience shook when she blew her whistle through the New York streets looking for the runaway Annie. Scary, cruel villainous yet exceptional, Miss Hannigan took the cake when it came to augmenting the orphan's plight. With a brassy and powerful voice, senior Jocelyn Hon played Aggie Hannigan impressively.
"Annie" has few male leads. Dante DiPietro a.k.a. Mr. Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks emanated paternal love he never knew he had while Josh Killian took on a few personas for himself as Lieutenant Ward, Bert Healy, and Ickes. The man of many faces and talents -- comical, good vocals, and well-portrayed variations of his roles -- earned the admiration of everyone in the audience.
Everything was fast and full of life, there was never a dull moment.
With this "Annie" there was not one instance where you were not eating out of the palm of her optimistic hands or falling for the cheery smiles of the surrounding cast.
"Annie" ran April 5-12.
The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson.