Theater Review: Playhouse on the Square's 'Annie' razzles but doesn't dazzle

There are two casts for the Playhouse on the Square production of 'Annie.' In this troupe, Claire D. Kolheim (left), Colin Morgan and Carla McDonald dream of 'Easy Street.' With a Christmas-themed story, cute kids and well-behaved dogs, it's a fine choice for a family show.

Photo by Chris Neely/Special to The Commercial Appeal

There are two casts for the Playhouse on the Square production of "Annie." In this troupe, Claire D. Kolheim (left), Colin Morgan and Carla McDonald dream of "Easy Street." With a Christmas-themed story, cute kids and well-behaved dogs, it's a fine choice for a family show.

Playhouse on the Square is looking to its seven-weekend production of "Annie" to bring in some holiday sunshine. The musical is solid in content with its appeal to families and Christmas theme, and while it's not a new deal, it's a reliable one.

All it really has to do is show up with some pizazz, reasonably good warblers and a dog that behaves, and — Leapin' Lizards! — you've found yourself on Easy Street.

The POTS production does all that adequately enough to keep families entertained. It's certainly not the most polished event to pop off the Playhouse stage — plenty of razzle, not so much dazzle. The dance numbers are mixed, some snappy like "Hooverville," others sputtering.

There are two casts, so whom you see onstage will depend on when you go. I saw the version with Carla McDonald as Miss Hannigan, and she stole the show. McDonald has amazing chops and a gift for spot-on comedy. It's easy to go over the top, but it's tough to know exactly how to do it with nuance. She does. (Irene Crist is the other Miss Hannigan in the production, and she is another gifted actor — you can't really go wrong with this casting).

Annie was played by Danielle Chaum in the show I saw (Megan Cheng handles lead duties in the alternate casting). Chaum has spunk, just what you want in your Annie, and she handled the considerable singing duties with aplomb.

Daddy Warbucks is played by Bryan Robinson evoking Batman's Penguin, both cheerier and less charismatic, huffing through his numbers. The orphans were adorable, talented and not overly ingratiating, so thank you for that. And the ensemble — they deserve credit too — were enjoyable, thanks to great talents like Marc Gill and Cassie Thompson.

“Annie”

Playhouse on the Square, 66 S. Cooper. 7 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Dec. 23 and Dec. 30. Pay-what-you-can performances 7 p.m. Dec. 20 and Dec. 28. $40 Fridays-Saturdays; $35 Thursdays/Sundays; $22 senior citizens, students, military; $15 children under 18. Call 901-726-4656.

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Comments » 1

sandscheng6 writes:

Annie is a great show for families to attend! Lots of great energy from ensemble and St. Regis & Rooster. Ms. Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks are great actors! Annie and Orphans have lots of fun and SO WILL YOU!

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