Cache Critic’s Choice: “Annie” is utterly adorable

Ella Tait (kneeling front, center) leads the orphan girls chorus in the ongoing Music Theatre West production of the musical “Annie.”(Photo courtesy of MTW)

Cache Critic’s Choice is a continuing feature on Cache Valley Daily highlighting local theatrical events and live entertainment.

LOGAN – When it comes to selling a corny old show to a Cache Valley audience, nobody does it better than the Music Theater West folks. Their ongoing production of the musical “Annie” is absolutely heartwarming and utterly adorable.

Charity Tait is a spunky orphan with her pet Sandy played by service dog Flynn in the ongoing Music Theatre West production of the musical “Annie.”(Photo courtesy of MTW)

If you haven’t been living in a cave for the past 50 years, you know that “Annie” is based on the classic comic strip “Little Orphan Annie.” This stage adaptation by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin has just a paper-thin plot; it’s mostly a series of ensemble production numbers loosely strung together. If the singing and dancing in those production numbers isn’t sensational, “Annie” can be deadly dull. But this Music Theatre West production directed by Debbie Ditton is anything but boring.

Ten-year-old Charity Tait stars in the title role and “star” is the only word to describe her performance. Her unusually strong voice ranges effortlessly from being nicely plaintive in her early solo “Maybe” to buoyantly optimistic in the show’s anthem song “Tomorrow.”

Charity shares the spotlight in the musical’s orphanage scenes with her younger sister Ella, who may be in the running for the title of youngest scene stealer in theater history. Little Ella is funny, sings and dances up a storm and, even on a crowded stage, you can’t take your eyes off her.

Stanton Allen (right) plays the uptight billionaire Daddy Warbucks who is charmed by Charity Tait in the ongoing Music Theatre West production of the musical “Annie.”(Photo courtesy of MTW)

If you’re a theater-goer who is a little nervous about seeing a show that’s over-run with kids, relax. The chorus of young girls who play Annie’s fellow orphans will steal your heart while performing the raucous tune “Hard Knock Life” and their antics throughout the show are hilarious.

MTW veteran Celeste Baillio delivers a hysterically over-the-top performance as the orphans’ besotted nemesis Mrs. Hannigan. Ms. Baillio is wildly uninhibited, as flexible as a rubber band and never forgets that she’s supposed to be three-sheets-to-the-wind even in the midst of a song-and-dance routine.

Stanton Allen and Sebrina Woodland round out the cast leads as Daddy Warbucks and his secretary Grace. Allen is thoroughly convincing as the stiff-necked billionaire whose life is transformed by exposure to a plucky orphan. As always, Ms. Woodland is stylish, graceful and sings beautifully.

Celeste Baillio (right) leads Logan McKenna and Tiffany Dean in the boozy production number “Easy Street” during the ongoing Music Theatre West production of the musical “Annie.”(Photo courtesy of MTW)

The supporting cast includes Logan McKenna and Tiffany Bean, who provide comedy relief as a dim-bulb confidence man and his ditzy wife. Jared Rounds also amusingly leads a singing and dancing ensemble as Warbuck’s major domo Drake.

The on-stage performances are skillfully accompanied by a remarkable local orchestra led by conductor Jay Richards.

Matinee and evening performances of “Annie” will continue at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan through Mar. 7th.




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