Annie at the Pantages - America's Favorite Musical

The entire cast in curtain call

The glamorous Pantages Theater has earned renown  for hosting such diverse venues as 'The Academy Awards' and Disney's The Incredibles.  For a limited two week engagement, however the reputable theater belongs to Martin Charnin Helms' Annie and the eclectic cast of players which encompass it.

Besides returning to Los Angeles after winning seven Tony® awards and running for over twenty years on Broadway and boasting the creative styling of the original Broadway director and lyricist, Martin Charnin, Annie also contains a brand new song - 'Why Should I Change A Thing' - by Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse which had never previously been included in the production.  This new musical number fits quite perfectly in the legion of already recognizable and much beloved tunes, such as 'Tomorrow' and 'It's the Hard-Knock Life'.

The cutest orphans singing about their "Hard Knock Life"

Technically speaking, the play was flawless.  The sound and light quality was much like one would expect from such a lavish stage.  The orchestra mixed very well with the voices and even impressed upon my keen ear.  But most notably was the settings.  One would anticipate that either the sets would be complicated but drag down the overall speed of the play, or oppositely, be simplified but rapidly transitioned.  In this particular piece, the setting included overhead hangings, fully functional stairs, and no less than five distinct locations.  Yet, the play continued to shoot by at full speed, regardless of whether the stage managers had two minutes to completely revamp the stage behind the front drop or ten.

In Hollywood, there's never a shortage of actors, although finding a talented performer can be quite a chore.  Most rare are those who can create the character at an age where they can't drive a car.  Marissa O' Donnell played a delightful Annie, with perfect grace, charm, and a small dose of mischief.  Her voice carried well and reached every note with crystal clarity, and her character's innocence matched with newfound knowledge was delivered without flaw or hitch.

Annie with Daddy Warbucks

Conrad John Schuck also did well reprising his role as Daddy Warbucks.  Oliver Warbucks, a wealthy upper class businessman during a time when the general populus was homeless invites an orphan to his house and ultimately falls in love with Annie.  He sees her as the daughter he never had time to create.  That, and his loneliness at the top compell his emotions to befriend and ultimately adopt young Annie.

Combined with Marissa (Annie), they brought a fascinating and magical chemistry to the stage.  Each tender hug felt real and heart-warming.  Conrad's portrayal of the confused, yet needy Daddy Warbucks tantalized the stage with inner and outer conflict.  This is made especially poignant in the light of the new song, which emphasizes more the change of view that occurs in Warbucks.

The cast was well rounded with other such talents as Alene Robertson (the grumpy Miss Hannigan) and Elizabeth Broad Hurst (Annie's savior, Grace Farrell).  Scott Willis' performance as Rooster Hannigan was especially noteworthy, as his fluid movements were continual reminders of his character's sinister nature.  Lily St. Regis, played by Mackenzie Phillips was done very sensually and subtly.  And all the other orphans were especially adorable.

Annie with her trusty dog, Sandy

The New York City created on such a small stage encompasses the memories and stories of a thousand people, who starving called out to Roosevelt for a "New Deal", which according to this play was inspired by one red-headed orphan girl.  Although corny at times, Annie acts like church on Easter, a momentary reminder of possibility, in a world of closed doors.

Martin Charnin has brought to the lights of Hollywood, a brighter notion of positivity in the face of adversity.  Set in the depression after the Stock Market crash of 1929, Annie the play, like Annie the orphan sparkles with notions of optimism and love.  Let's hope we never forget that "Tomorrow is only a day away."

will be playing until October 16th.  Tickets range from $25 - $68 and can be purchased online at or by phone at 213-365-3500.  More information can also be found at the above website.

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