Mirvish Productions brings the much beloved classic musical Annie back to the Toronto stage
I arrived to Annie at the Ed Mirvish Theatre on a sunny Sunday afternoon with my eight-year-old companion, joining a chattering throng of excited patrons for the fresh-from-London revival of an old favorite that I saw on Broadway as a young child more than 30 years ago. I vividly recall my excitement at the time, how exciting and fresh the show felt, and I hoped our visit would be equally enjoyable for my small charge. I’m happy to say it was; this production of Annie was a playful pleasure.
In case it’s not already a familiar story, Annie is about a scrappy and resourceful orphan who manages to get herself taken to the home of subtly-named billionaire Oliver Warbucks for two weeks over the Christmas holiday in 1933, the depths of the Great Depression. When her benefactor finds his heart softened by her sweetness and optimism, he offers to adopt her – but Annie is holding out for her “real” parents, whom she believes to be waiting to return and find her.
The cast, headlined by splendid character actor Lesley Nichol playing Miss Hannigan and anchored by young Isobel Khan as Annie, comes together beautifully. Annie features an array of classic hello-it’s-Broadway! numbers, which are a bit out of favor these days but are nevertheless such a pleasure to watch when well-executed, as these are. Alex Bourne, who plays Warbucks, notably partners young Khan in these song-and-dance moments with considerable aplomb and evident fondness. Also worth noting is Matthew Hawklsey as Rooster, so slimy and smarmy and generally awful that well-behaved children all around me expressed their disgust audibly, in spite of various attempts at shushing by their caregivers.
To be sure, this production isn’t Great Theatah. It’s a little sappy and more than a little hammy. If a cadre of boys in high-waisted trousers leaping and twirling in beautiful synchronicity across the stage for no apparent reason isn’t a pleasing idea to you all by itself, you may want to stay home and reread Proust. It’s not Arcadia (thank heavens). You’re not going to tick anything off your Deep Artistic Experiences punch-card here.
This Annie is well-conceived and well-performed theatrical junk food as much as the original was – you’ll laugh at horrible, hungover Miss Hannigan, you’ll cheer for the grungy orphans getting their back at her, you’ll be delighted when downtrodden Annie shares the generosity of her bald benefactor. My 8-year-old guest was riveted the entire time and bounced happily the whole way home imagining and re-imagining the story (and may have been heard to sing “It’s A Hard Knock Life” that evening while clearing the dinner dishes). Annie is that kind of pretty, frivolous, thoroughly engrossing lark.
- Annie is playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria Street) until June 3rd 2018.
- Performances run Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 pm with matinees at 1:30 pm on Wednesdays and on weekends.
- Tickets range from $39 – $225, save money by buying as a group of 10 or more. See website for details.
- Tickets can be purchased in advance online, in person at the Mirvish head office (284 King Street West, 4th floor), or by phone by calling 416 593 4142. Buying online is advised as tickets are selling fast.
- Run time is 2 hours 20 minutes with intermission.
Photo of Isobel Khan by Cylla von Tiedemann