Annie promises Rich and Talented Stage Stars for Tomorrow
by Louw Mulder
Very seldom a theatre production of this scale makes you proud, and very positive about the future of SA Theatre. In this case, Annie doesn’t disappoint; it is a showcase of the young talent we can expect major success from in the future.
There are many aspects of Annie to rave about, but most of all, credit has to go to the producers for casting such an unbelievable cast. Perfectly fitted into each role, each character is portrayed with ease, contributing effortlessly to the magic of Annie’s Story. But Annie, the musical, is famous for the orphan girls, who serve as the core focus of the show. In this Pieter Toerien and Hazel Feldman Production, each little girl crawls into the heart of each audience member, which makes Annie an explosive experience of theatre excellence.
With great appreciation to the producers, I was blessed to see Annie three times, to witness all three groups of orphans perform their roles. It would be totally unfair of me to label the one better than the other, because the standard, dedication, and hunger to perform from all the kids, were astonishing and noticeable in their performances.
Bonisiwe Nomoyi plays Molly in Team Empire. It is this 11 year-old’s debut performance on the big stage, but her wittiness and comfortable demeanour would make you think she is already an experienced stage actress. From team Rockerfeller, also playing Molly, is Mikah Smith. Mikah is the ultimate definition of cuteness on stage. With an impressive resume already for a 12 year-old girl, her dream of becoming a professional performer, might be realised much sooner than she thinks.
But let’s talk about Annie… or the three Annies in this production. It was nothing short of entertaining to see all three off them perform; Emma-Rose Blacher, Caitlin Dicker and Lilla Fleischmann. Each of these Annies has the characteristics of a true performer. I still insist that choosing the “best” Annie, would be unfair, but I was really impressed with Fleischmann’s performance as Annie. It is not easy being alone on stage, with a dog that decides not to play its part. Fleischman showed real professionalism by continuing with her act, not fazed at all by Sandy’s unwillingness to co-operate.
To add to this, the chemistry between Fleischmann as Annie, and Daddy Warbucks, on the night played by Anton Luitingh, was so effective; the connection between orphan and adopted father-to-be was tangible. In saying this, there is nothing short of Neels Clasen’s performance as Daddy Warbucks. All the adult cast members showed real class in all the respective roles necessary to make Annie such an easy-to-enjoy musical.
Now, sometimes you get an actor that has to act in a silly, funny role, which is normally associated with the villain in the story. Many times, it is easy for such an actor to overplay the silliness and funniness, that it becomes annoying towards the end of the show. This was certainly not the case with Charon Williams-Ros, in the role of Miss Hannigan. Nominated for two Best Actress awards for her role in Sweeney Todd, Williams-Ros portrayed this role with perfection. She knew exactly where to draw the line between the silliness the role required, and overplaying the part. It is no wonder she had audiences on their feet at all three performances.
Completing the evil threesome with humorous success, is Stephen Jubber and Delray Halgryn as Rooster and Lily respectively. In total contradiction to these sly characters, is the loving and beautiful Taryn Sudding, perfectly cast in the role of Grace. To complete the cast in the ensemble, are well known theatre stars Duane Alexander, also the Resident Choreographer for this production, Ambre-Chanel Fulton, Cat Lane, Stefania du Toit, with other talents like Michael Fullard, Michelle Lane, Hope Maimane, Jonathan Raath, Candice van Litsenborgh and Richard Vorster.
To join this wonderful cast, was Ben Mundy, in the role of Bert Healy, who got his training at the Arts Educational School in London. Mundy acted previously as a swing in the UK and European tours of Annie, and no doubt his experience contributed immensely to this production, in which he fulfilled the role of Dance Captain.
The production was executed in world-class fashion. The transitions between sets are done very smartly, changing right before your eyes, whilst distracted by some activities which makes the next scene just appear out of nowhere. Directed by Nikolai Foster, choreographed by Nick Winston, and taken over by resident director Anton Luitingh, this wonderful cast mastered this direction flawlessly.
Under the baton of Musical Director, conductor and Flying Maestro, Bryan Schimmel, the music is as magical as one would like to look forward to. I believe that directing all these kids, in their three groups, was not an easy task, so a huge F-Sharp and B-Flat thumbs up to Schimmel and the rest of the musical coaches for such delightful sounds. Schimmel has an eight piece orchestra in the pit under his direction in this production.
Annie will enchant audiences in Gauteng until 27 November at the Teatro, Montecasino, after which it will move to Cape Town, to continue their hard knock life in the Artscape, from 2 December. Don’t delay. I will advise to book early, as tomorrow, is only a day away.
Annie is proudly presented by Pieter Toerien and Hazel Feldman, in association with Michael Harrison Entertainment and David Ian Productions.