Showboat’s ‘Annie’ full of energy
Written by: David Burke – Quad City Times
If you turn up your nose at the thought of the musical “Annie,” sorry. Clinton Area Showboat Theatre’s version of the comic strip musical probably won’t make you change your mind.
But if your mouth even begins to curl up at the thought of eternal optimism when you hear the phrase “the sun’ll come out tomorrow,” then you’ve got a treat in store.
Showboat’s “Annie” keeps going at a pleasant clip throughout the night, equally charged by its younger and older casts.
In the title role, 13-year-old Allison Winkel charms and carries a clear, dynamic voice. Allison, who performed opening night, alternates as Annie with 8-year-old Mackenna Janz of Davenport. Allison pegs the emotions of the orphaned girl who’s taken in by a billionaire.
The rest of the orphans, more than a dozen strong, make themselves more than background players with personalities of their own, even dancing with their blankets during “Hard Knock Life.”
As for the adults, I like the character choices that Karen Stephan makes in the role of Miss Hannigan. Instead of making the orphanage director a complete lowlife lush, Stephan plays her as a woman who sees herself as slinky and flirtatious while still carrying a flask and with a heady Noo Yawk accent. (And was it my imagination or did her makeup resemble Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight”?)
Showboat regular Doug Kutzli gives the best performance I’ve yet seen from him as Oliver Warbucks, showing us the transition from a hardened capitalist to a man with a soft spot for the 11-year-old Annie. Maggie Ellsworth is charming and graceful as his assistant Grace.
Eric Chambliss, one of Showboat’s big finds this summer, has a nice balance of suave and clueless as Rooster, Hannigan’s brother and inept con man. Nicole Ferguson gets in some good work as his girlfriend Lily.
Director Patrick Stinson keeps a show that easily could drag on into some energetic, lively and fun proceedings. Music director Drew Wutke and a five-piece orchestra are lively throughout the night.
In one of set designer Kenneth Verdugo’s more impressive works, everything is played out in front of cubes adorned with reproductions of the 1930s comic strips. Annie’s dull life in the orphanage is in black and white, and anything with Daddy Warbucks is in color.
Finally, kudos to Cooper, a Norwegian elk hound-shih tzu cross who stays right on the mark as Sandy the dog.