You’re Only a Day Away From “Annie” in American Fork

Annie in American Fork UtahBy Larisa Hicken and Jen Mustoe

Performing in the beautiful American Fork Amphitheater, Annie, directed by Adam Cannon, is presented by the American Fork Community Theater in association with the Timpanogos Arts Foundation.

Winner of 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Annie is a beloved favorite based on the popular 1930s comic strip by Harold Gray. Abandoned on the steps of a New York City orphanage in the 1920s, Annie and her fellow orphans are left to the cruelty of Miss Hannigan, an attention-starved alcoholic. Possessing equal measures of grit and optimism, little orphan Annie is determined to find her real parents. With her bright red hair and spunky personality, Annie charms her way into everyone’s hearts and she eventually finds a new home and family with billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, and his personal secretary, Grace Farrell.

The opening scene, with all the orphans sprawled on bunks and mattresses on the floor is darling, and as the littles start to sing and interact, their darling orphan costumes really set the tone for the show. The big stars in this show are the kids, and there seemed to be about 50 of them (not really but there are a lot) and they do pretty well. Director Cannon had his hands full with this pack, but they shine. After the show, all the young actors are hugging family and friends and there is a charm and a delight seeing so many new actors getting a chance to perform on a real stage with a real audience.

Nikki Merrell definitely steals the show with an enthusiastic and sweet portrayal of the orphan Annie. Her voice is lovely enough to rival the best of the adults in the cast and her intonation was great for one so young. Her smile is contagious and her rendition of “Tomorrow” is adorable.

The best interactions in the show are between Merrell and Mindy Eckroth playing Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ assistant. Eckroth has a powerhouse voice and a terrific vocal range. She is also a talented dancer (who doubles as choreographer) and has a stage presence that is impossible to ignore.

I would like to see a little more chemistry between Eckroth and Andrew Whittaker as Oliver Warbucks, but the romance takes a backseat in this production. Whittaker does a good job of owning the larger-than-life Warbucks and his affection for Annie is endearing.

Everyone’s favorite villain, Miss Hannigan, is played by a gorgeous and lithe Anne Perkins. Her over-the-top costumes, designed by Emma Otteson and her hair by Ashley Ramsey are fantastic.

Other standout performers include the tiniest cast members Theo Barratt and Nibley Duffin. Their sweet voices and adorable acting immediately capture your heart. Savannah Carrasco as the orphan Duffy was exceptional and Cambry Wangsgard as orphan Tessie has a promising young voice that I hope to hear again in future shows.

The production suffers from complications that come from working in an outdoor theater with sound problems, limited lighting options and scene changes without the benefit of curtains, but the cast and crew give it their all and their enthusiasm is contagious. This production of Annie is a bit rough around the edges, but manages to steal your heart just the same.

At three hours, this show may be a bit long for younger children. There are also several mild swear words that may offend some audience members and no one stops people from smoking during the show. Bring your bug spray and a flashlight for safety because the theater steps are unlit. The show is double cast, so make sure you check to see if your favorite actor is performing on the night you plan to attend!

American Fork Community Theater presents Annie by Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, and Thomas Meehan.
August 3-5, 8-12 8:00 PM Doors open at 7:30 PM Open seating                                       American Fork Amphitheater, 851 E 700 N, American Fork, UT 84003
Tickets are $10, except for family nights on Tuesday August 8 and Wednesday August 9 when all tickets are only $5.
Handicap parking is at the bottom of the amphitheater, but the main entrance is at the top. Lawn chairs may be used along the top row. Bring a blanket or stadium chair to sit on. Concessions are available.