I am old enough to remember the original Annie on Broadway, starring Andrea McArdle. That show had me and a zillion other little girls dreaming of living in a mansion with a swimming pool and a cute dog–although maybe keeping our own parents. So when I heard Annie was coming back to Broadway this year, I jumped at the chance to bring my daughters to a preview.

Annie on Broadway | photo via Vanity Fair

I can’t say that the Annie revival quite lives up to the original 70s debut, although there are some very good performances indeed. Katie Finneran absolutely shines (like the top of the Chrysler Building?) as disgruntled, besotted, hilarious Mrs. Hannigan; Brynn O’Malley makes a lovely, warm Grace; and Anthony Warlow fits that Oliver Warbucks tux perfectly in every way. My kids are still repeating his line about inviting the Roosevelts for Christmas: “What do Democrats eat for dinner?” 

There are some standouts in the supporting cast as well, but I’m sure what you’re wondering most is, how was Annie? Regrettably, during our performance, lead Lila Crawford was absent, as were several orphans, leaving the young cast a little thin. Understudy Taylor Richardson certainly held her own (some pipes on a little girl!), although of course I would have loved to have seen Lila, who’s getting raves. 

Still, it hasn’t stopped my girls from reenacting the scenes at home over and over. They were especially struck by little Molly, the youngest orphan, adorably played by Emily Rosenfeld.

Annie the Musical | photo via LA Times

For kids who grew up on the 1982 movie, starring Carol Burnett, Albert Finney, Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters–well, that’s a lot of star power to live up to. But for my pair of little girls in Row J, the magic of seeing it live (“That’s a real dog, Mommy!”) took over the second the lights dimmed and the first strains of Maybe echoed from the orchestra. 

And you know? The little boys around us were loving it just as much. It doesn’t all have to be about Spiderman for them.

Of course as a parent, there’s a whole lot you’ll want to explain to your kids beforehand to varying, age-appropriate degrees: the Great Depression, FDR’s New Deal, why people are squatting under the Manhattan Bridge, and of course, why girls with no parents were treated so badly by an alcoholic caretaker. I must say, some of it hit a wee bit close to home in wake of the recent recession, and the effects of Hurricane Sandy just a subway ride away from the theater. And we have entered a more enlightened age in which the idea of “funny orphans” and “charming homeless people” is a little past. Not that the kids will catch it. 

Still, you can look at it as a great opportunity to talk about history and how things have changed, and why empathy for others is so important–or hey, you can just sit back and enjoy the rags-to-riches story and the timeless music, which is just as fresh and fun as ever. 

You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile never gets old for me. Even for this Broadway Annie veteran. –Liz

You can catch Annie the Musical on Broadway and get tickets via their website. And kudos to the producers for using a rescue dog in the role of Sandy! Find out more about their partnership with Pedigree to raise money for pet adoption at the Facebook page. 

Thanks to Mama Drama for providing two of our tickets, and helping to keep theater alive for a new generation. 

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