By Jenny Simmons
Cottonwood Heights Arts Council is really making its presence known. They have been around since 2009, and their shows just keep getting better. Summer of 2017’s production is Annie, and it’s a winner.
We all know and love Annie (Madeline Best) as the little orphan girl who captures the heart of the richest man in America in 1933. It is the middle of the Great Depression when we meet the insufferable Miss Hannigan( Marcela Fedderson) to her orphan charges. The girls live in deplorable conditions, until one day Miss Hannigan finds out Oliver Warbucks (Rohit Raghavan) wants an orphan to spend the holidays with him. Havoc, fun, and sweetness ensue.
Watch out world, Best’s portrayal of Annie is shows she is a very talented young actress whose impressive singing voice and great acting style gives deep emotion to Annie’s character.. It is evident she has trained for many years.
Fedderson’s Miss Hannigan is evil and silly all rolled into one. Fedderson has so many fun nuances, I couldn’t stop laughing when she was onstage. She brings something extra to Hannagin you don’t want to miss.
Natalie Nielson’s Grace was just that–full of grace. She absolutely floated across the stage. Her beautiful soprano voice accentuated her lovely performance. She and Warbucks have a palpable “Boss/I-kinda-dig-you” chemistry. Raghavan’s Warbucks was fun to watch as he went from stark businessman to a human puddle around Annie. I have seen Annie several times and I have never seen a Warbucks with as powerful a voice as Raghavan. The song in which he expresses his love for this little girl, “Something was Missing,” is one I haven’t noticed before until tonight. Raghavan makes it poignant and memorable.
Josiah Rupp and Jen Spongberg are spot on as everyone’s favorite bird-brained villains. I don’t know how he does it, but Rupp made Rooster slimy and lovable all at the same time. Spongberg’s Lily St. Regis, named ”aftah” the hotel, is such a delight. She’s always doing something squirrely in the background, without upstaging anyone. You can look forward to her antics throughout the show. This couple may not be onstage much, but we get to soak up every ounce of their awesomeness when it does happen.
Cameron Vikilian is another actor with not much stage time. He impeccably plays Radio Announcer Bert Healy and Drake, Warbuck’s Chief of Staff. Talk about making the most of your part, Vikilian had me in stitches the whole time. He is an ingenious actor and comedian. Don’t tell the others, but he steals the show. I love how he announces the sponsors of the radio show as CHAC’s sponsors. What a fun way to give a nod of thanks to the folks who help productions like this come to fruition.
I love watching performance when you know the production team expects perfection. Marilyn Whipple’s directing made this evident. When you have 24 little girls ages 4-11, it can go either way. These orphans are impeccable and dazzling. They are adorable and sassy when they need to be and even the littlest girls know their dance steps and sing out loud and proud. Thankfully, Drew Angelovic and her assistant, Duncan Angelovic, didn’t back off with their choreography. This brother/sister duo came up with dances that are intricate, fun, and interesting. The whole cast is well-rehearsed and confident. Even with the normal dress rehearsal fumbles, I can see they are giving it their all. Jannalee Hunsaker not only taught them the music, she taught them that holding out notes adds more emotion.
We all know community theater productions sometimes suffer with ensemble numbers, but not this cast. You can tell just how hard they have worked.
Dave Bates creates magical projections that really make the show unique and special. He takes us back to 1933 with just a picture projected on a wall. I was very impressed. Brad Lake’s set is beautiful and well-constructed. I wasn’t even a little bit nervous watching those sweet little girls jumping around on that bed. Warbucks’ mansion is posh and regal, while the orphanage is dilapidated. Natalie Daniel has done an amazing job with the costumes. Everyone looked perfect. My favorite costumes included Annie’s teal dress to meet President Roosevelt at the White House, the Boylin Sisters’ adorable “current and yet period dresses,” and, of course, the iconic Annie red dress everyone knows and loves.
Bring all your friends and family to this great production of Annie—fun for everyone at a great price.
Cottonwood Heights Arts Council presents Annie, Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin, and Book by Thomas Meehan.
Butler Middle School, 7530 S. 2700 E., Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121 (Butler Middle School is located next to Cottonwood Heights Rec Center, but the theater entrance is at the far south side of the building.)
July 28, 29, 31, August 5-6 7:30 PM, July 29 12:30 PM
Tickets: $10 for adults, $8 for children ages 3-12, and seniors ages 65 and up. Monday, July 31, has a Family Pass for $45 for 2 adults and up to 5 children.
You can purchase online tickets here with a $1 service fee. Or you can buy them at the door.