Chicago Theater Review: ANNIE (Paramount Theatre in Aurora)

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by Sally Jo Osborne on November 28, 2012

in Theater-Chicago


Director Rachel Rockwell once again astounds us with an incredibly entertaining rendition of Annie at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL.  Annie  (book: Thomas Meehan, music: Charles Strouse, lyrics: Martin Charnin) is a musical based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie. It hit Broadway in 1977, Sally Jo Osborne’s Stage and Cinema review of ANNIE at the Paramount in Aurora, Chicagomaking that perky little naïf 35-years-old (to put it in perspective, even Sarah Jessica Parker played the red-haired moppet in the original run).

The musical seems timelier than ever, being that it occurs in Depression Era America; while the situation was ultimately more devastating in the 1930’s, our current economy eerily mirrors that troubled time. Mike Tutaj’s projection design on set designer Linda Buchanan’s streets of New York (beautifully lit by Greg Hofmann), gives us a realistic glimpse of what it might have felt like to be either an orphan or a formerly successful executive living under the 59th St. Bridge, thanks to both the crash of 1929, and, according to those who lived in tent cities, President Hoover.

Sally Jo Osborne’s Stage and Cinema review of ANNIE at the Paramount in Aurora, Chicago12-year-old Caroline Heffernan) does an excellent job portraying the tough yet tender little Annie, who is smart and talented beyond her young age. She never gives up hope that her real mom and dad will someday come and get her out of the orphanage she was left at when she was just a babe. As is meant to be, her fellow orphans (aged 7 through 12) are cute as buttons (who wants grumpy, ugly orphans to win the day?): Each of their numbers are by far the most entertaining numbers of the evening.  Rockwell’s cleverly choreographed “Hard Knock Life” (assisted by Nicole Hren), which has the urchins bemoaning their lot, is one example of this.  The full orchestra and large, spectacular talented cast make seeing this show as close to Broadway as you can get—and all right here in Aurora. There are plenty of standout numbers, including “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” “Tomorrow,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile,” and “I Don’t Need Anything But You.”

Sally Jo Osborne’s Stage and Cinema review of ANNIE at the Paramount in Aurora, ChicagoGene Weygandt is a devilishly handsome Daddy Warbucks (complete with a full head of hair) and Emily Rohm, as his lovely assistant Grace Farrell, spews excitement and talent.  Unfortunately, Christine Sherrill (as the drunkenly mean yet misunderstood Miss Hannigan) seemed plagued with sound issues and screeching.  Jake Klinkhammer convincingly plays Miss Hannigan’s brother Rooster, a conniving master of disguises.  Don Richard’s FDR earned some laughs, even with an almost cartoon quality to him. But it always comes down to the scene-stealing Sandy the dog, here played by “Mikey,” who actually is a rescue dog with an impressive resume and lofty career goals. Each of the ensemble members, dressed in Theresa Ham’s marvelously authentic costumes, play key roles in making this show a hit.

Sally Jo Osborne’s Stage and Cinema review of ANNIE at the Paramount in Aurora, ChicagoThere’s no denying that the family-friendly show can be syrupy at times, but for families experiencing tough times, the 2 ½ hour event will cause laughter and maybe even some tears. This is a story of hope and optimism, and this cheerful musical reinforces the belief in not giving up on whatever you believe in, as Annie herself belts out.

photos by Liz Lauren

The Paramount Theatre in Aurora
scheduled to end on December 30, 2012
for tickets, call 630-896-6666 or visit

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{ 1 comment }

Elvira December 15, 2012 at 8:26 am

I have seen the film which I thoroughly enjoyed! I wish I could fly to Chicago and enjoy the performance. I admire you and I am proud that a close relative of mine is a famous actor! God Bless you!

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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