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‘Annie’

AMC Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook presents a screening of Annie (1982) on Sunday, Nov. 22  at noon and 4 p.m., courtesy of Fathom Events.

Based on one of the most popular comic strips of all time and adapted from the smash Broadway musical, Annie is set in Depression-era New York City, where a spunky little girl (Aileen Quinn) lives in an orphanage run by the boozy, tyrannical Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett). Annie’s hopes soar when multigazillionaire Oliver Warbucks (Albert Finney) decides to take in an orphan for a week to “upgrade his image.” She gets herself chosen, gradually Annie and her adopted dog, Sandy, ingratiate themselves, and eventually Warbucks adopts the girl. But his search for Annie’s missing parents turns up only the villainous Rooster (Tim Curry) and his venal girlfriend, Lily (Bernadette Peters), who conspire with Miss Hannigan to relieve Warbucks of both the girl and a hefty reward. It is left to Sandy, the other orphans and Daddy Warbucks to rescue Annie before it’s too late.

The sun is coming out on this special event that includes exclusive insights from Turner Classic Movies.

Order tickets at www.fathomevents.com.

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Photo by James Gorman

HEARTWARMING FUN

Get out of the cold and catch a performance of the timeless musical classic ‘Annie’ at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. The theater presents its last three performances on Jan. 18 at 2 p.m., Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. through Jan. 20. Based on the popular comic strip by Harold Gray, the story follows little orphan Annie on her quest to find the parents who abandoned her on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage. Tickets are $40 adults, $36 seniors, $25 students. Call 724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org. 

By Heidi Sutton

Just in time for the holidays, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts kicks off its 18th season with a production of the classic family musical “Annie” through Jan. 20. Last seen on the Smithtown stage back in 2010, the show returns with fervor with a whole new cast, albeit a lovable favorite, and brims with hope, optimism and dreams.

With book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, “Annie” the musical premiered on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) in 1977. Since then, the award-winning show has toured around the world and serving as inspiration for many stage, film and television adaptations.

Loosely based on the adventures of Little Orphan Annie, a comic strip created by Harold Gray in the 1920s, “Annie” tells the story of a spunky 11-year-old who has been living at the New York Municipal Orphanage for Girls since her parents dropped her off there when she was an infant with half a locket and a note promising to come back for her. As the years pass Annie grows restless waiting for their return and runs away a lot, testing the patience of the ill-tempered and downright cruel Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage.

“That was 1922 and this is 1933 – they must’ve got stuck in traffic!” Miss Hannigan says sarcastically.

As the holidays roll around, billionaire Oliver Warbucks sends his personal secretary Grace Farrell to the orphanage to choose one lucky orphan to spend Christmas at his mansion. The secretary chooses the rambunctious curly-haired redhead, who quickly steals the hearts of Farrell, Warbucks and the entire household staff. When the billionaire hears Annie’s story, he offers a $50,000 reward to help find her parents, attracting every swindler out there including Miss Hannigan’s shady brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily. Will their scheme be foiled? Will Annie find her real parents?

Directed by Tommy Ranieri, the uber-talented cast embraces the ever-optimistic script and runs with it. The role of the orphans are double cast, with a Red and Green Cast. Last Saturday afternoon’s performance, performed by the Green Cast, featured a wonderful Paige Mathers as Annie (a role shared with Gabby Blum), perfectly capturing her character’s pluckiness, toughness and determination. Mathers’ versions of “Maybe” and “Tomorrow” are delivered perfectly. 

Annie’s fellow orphans, played by Cassidy Gill, Catalina A. Kreitzman, Adrienne Porti, Alexa Oliveto, Alexandra Mitnick and Jenna Hammelman, are terrific as well, most evident in the big number, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life.”

Joe Morris is perfectly cast as Oliver Warbucks and shines in “NYC” and “I Don’t Need Anything But You.” The bond he shares with Annie is charming and sweet. 

While the ensemble serves as the supporting cast for the show, they have plenty of time to shine on their own — especially Jeremy Hudson who changes roles quicker than changing clothes. It was nice to see him back on SPAC’s stage.

Erica Giglio Pac steals the spotlight as the cantankerous and boozy Miss Hannigan. Her vocals on “Little Girls” are pitch perfect and her wishful thinking rendition of “Easy Street” with Ryan Cavanagh as Rooster Hannigan and Alyson Gannon as Lily St. Regis leaves the audience wanting more. 

And there is a lot more, with a tap dancing Santa Claus, an appearance by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Doug Vandewinckel) and, amazingly, Shamus, the sweet cocker spaniel who played Sandy in the theater’s 2010 production, reprises his role as Annie’s lovable sidekick.

Choreography by Ryan Cavanagh is excellent, especially in the big numbers like “NYC” and “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” which uses wet mops as props.

Designed by Tim Golebiewski, the set is most impressive as it rolls and turns on wheels. The orphanage, with its many bunk beds, is transformed into a back alley, the entryway of Oliver Warbuck’s mansion and the Oval Office of the White House. Long creme-colored silk curtains are draped to hide the different props and give the scenes an expensive and festive feel. 

The full orchestra brings a wonderful richness to the classic songs, under the direction of Melissa Coyle, while the beautiful period costumes by Ronald Green III, complete with Annie’s iconic red dress, tie the whole production together in a big holiday bow. 

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents “Annie” through Jan. 20. Running time is approximately 2½ hours with one intermission. Tickets are $40 adults, $36 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by James Gorman

Presley Ryan as Annie and Moon as Sandy in a scene from 'Annie'

By Melissa Arnold

There are few characters from a musical more enduring across generational lines than the curly-haired, ever positive orphan Annie. The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is celebrating the holidays with its mainstage production of “Annie” through Dec. 31. Now in its 11th season, the Engeman has once again teamed up with director/choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo (“Grease,” “Memphis”) to bring Annie and her friends to life.

Presley Ryan and George Dvorsky

The story of New York’s most beloved orphan was partially inspired by “Little Orphan Annie,” a comic strip created by Harold Gray in the 1920s. After his death, the strip was carried on by a number of cartoonists until 2010. The comic followed the adventures of a little redhead girl and her dog while also offering commentary on political issues of the day, including the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal.

“Annie” the musical debuted on Broadway in 1977, with book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin. Since then, the show has toured around the world, won a slew of Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score and inspired several film adaptations.

When the play begins, 11-year-old Annie and her fellow orphans are growing up in the shadow of the Great Depression in New York City. Life is tough for these kids, especially living in a run-down, dirty orphanage under the care of calloused Agatha Hannigan. For years, Annie has waited eagerly for the return of her birth parents, who left her at Hannigan’s door with a letter and a locket. But they never come, and when Annie is chosen to spend two weeks with lonely billionaire Oliver Warbucks, her life is forever changed.

The cast of Engeman’s “Annie” will win your heart as soon as the show begins. Young Broadway veteran Presley Ryan embodies Annie’s charisma and unbreakable spirit effortlessly. Ryan’s Annie is appropriately youthful, and her voice is pleasant to listen to — sweet and strong, never shrill. You’ll fall in love with her during the first song, “Maybe,” and it’s hard to resist singing along with her on “Tomorrow.”

Ryan is far from the only young lady to stand out in this show, however. All of the girls at the New York Municipal Orphanage have a key role to play — to remove even one of them would make the ensemble seem incomplete.

Cordelia Comando, Sophia Lily Tamburo, Meaghan McInnes, Emma Sordi and Cassandra LaRocco

At the Engeman, the cast features two teams of orphans that will appear on different nights, but if the “red team” is any indicator, you’re in for a treat regardless of whose turn it is. The chemistry among the girls is natural and endearing — a special note of praise should go to the adorable Sophia Lily Tamburo, who plays Molly, the youngest of the bunch. Her comedic timing and dance moves are so impressive for her age, though all of them are incredibly talented with bright futures ahead.

Lynn Andrews is reprising her role as Miss Hannigan for this production — she and Elizabeth Broadhurst (Grace Farrell) were part of the 30th Anniversary Tour of “Annie” beginning in 2005. Andrews’ character is loud, proud and shameless with bold vocals to match. She’s snarky, funny and foolish, sometimes all at once, which is entertaining to watch. Her rollicking performance of “Easy Street” with Jon Peterson and Gina Milo (Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis, respectively) is one of the best in the show with fantastic harmonies.

Gina Milo, Jon Peterson and Lynn Andrews in a scene from ‘Annie’

George Dvorsky, another seasoned Broadway actor, plays Oliver Warbucks, the billionaire looking to make one orphan’s Christmas a bit brighter. He wasn’t expecting a little girl, however, and the relationship he builds with Annie is full of emotion and nuance. Dvorsky has both comedic and poignant moments in the show, and his performance of “Something Was Missing” will resonate with anyone who has experienced deep love of any kind.

There are also a few special guests in this show. For a brief time, Annie finds a loveable sidekick in a stray dog named Sandy. In this production, Sandy is actually played by two real dogs, Moon and Sandy. Moon was once a stray himself, and Sandy was recently rescued from a kill shelter following this summer’s devastating Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The dogs are amazingly well-behaved onstage thanks to hard work with Happy Dog Training & Behavior and the support of the cast “animal wrangler,” Cassidy Ingram.

While the ensemble serves as the supporting cast for the show, they have plenty of time to shine on their own — keep an eye out for them during the hilarious scenes at the White House and the radio station.

Elizabeth Broadhurst, Presley Ryan and George Dvorsky

New York scenic designers Christopher and Justin Swader are behind the unique and versatile set for this production. Detailed artwork of a hazy NYC skyline remains in the background throughout the show, and scene changes are made by the cast themselves. There’s not a lot of variation, but the transitions are simple and clear, so it gets the job done. Jonathan Brenner leads a seven-man orchestra in performing the classic score.

As of this writing, it still feels a bit early to think about the holidays, but the Engeman is dressed to the nines with garland and lights. And since “Annie” is set just before Christmas, it’s hard not to catch the holiday spirit during your visit. You might even feel like you’re a guest at Warbucks’ elaborate Christmas party.

Each year around the holidays, the John W. Engeman Theater gives back to its community through charitable support. This year, the theater is partnering with the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry at the First Presbyterian Church of Northport, which helps feed more than 160 local families each week. Consider bringing some extra cash to the show, or visit www.fpcnorthport.org to learn more.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present ‘Annie’ now through Dec. 31. Tickets are $73 to $78 with free valet parking. For questions or to purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro