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Talented BTG cast offers optimistic ‘Annie’

— In this age of recession and economic woes, it’s a comfort to bring back a little orphan who helped pull America out of its doldrums. “Annie” has returned to the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild with an air of optimism and a whole lot of talent.

This ensemble work is led by perky Shannon Beel (Gwen Mercer at alternate productions) as the red-headed waif, Annie, who wins our hearts amidst the poverty of a New York City orphanage. The orphans are all sizes and shapes, but each retains her individual character. The dance numbers are brisk and sharp. The voices are strong but most importantly, amidst all the poverty, the collective smiles of Annie’s optimism are evident. Beel is the leader of the troupe but knows that this is a “Hard Knock Life.”

Her escape in the laundry cart brings Annie to a cold New York City. Even as she encounters the destitute on the streets, she maintains her infectious optimism. Sandy, played with personality by Sandy B., nearly stole the show in the first act. The well-trained dog relates so well with Annie especially during the show’s signature song, “Tomorrow.”

Miss Hannigan is the abusive, tyrannical head of the orphanage. She does seem to enjoy her “medicine” a tad too much. Marissa Pizzuto is as bawdy and brassy as her whistle as she disciplines the orphans. She uses her physical presence and facial expressions to leave no doubt how she runs her orphanage. She has the belt voice to make us believe she really doesn’t like these “Little Girls.”

Annie’s time on the streets is short-lived and she loses her freedom and her canine friend. It’s back to the orphanage for the petite redhead. Before Miss Hannigan can exact her revenge, she gets a visit from Grace Farrell (Juliana Grabowski). She is the business-like secretary for billionaire Oliver War-bucks. Annie convinces Farrell to select her for a two-week stay with Warbucks. The ensemble of Warbuck’s staff is exemplary in their decorum and musical ability. They live in the lap of luxury but welcome the waif as their guest. Annie is amazed at the beauty of the mansion and with a crack staff like this, of course, “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here.”

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