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Sunday, July 11, 2010


I was worried taking Mo to the matinee of Gardner Community Theater's production of Annie. I went to the dress rehearsal Thursday (Em's in the Hooverville Chorus), and it ran three hours.

I think it tightened up a bit with a couple more performances under their belt, but it's still a long production for an autistic 13-year old to sit through quietly.

On the up side, Hooverville only comes into the plot early on, so I could see Em's part and leave if Mo was making noise.

But she sat in near total silence through to the intermission, and even during Act II, I only had to shush her once. I don't know if she was in rapture with the songs or what, but she did a rock-star job all the way.

This is a great musical, and a really good production of it. I think the sound reinforcement was better on the dress rehearsal, because that was my first time seeing the thing through and there are lines that if I didn't know them from Thursday, I couldn't have made out today. I don't know if there was some difference in the sound balance and how people were mic'd up or if it had to do with me being five rows back and well to the left of where I sat Thursday.

I think this kind of show is kind of perfect for community theater: it has name recognition and starring roles, but it also has dozens of bit parts with a few lines that are perfect for people who maybe don't have the time, energy, or interest in memorizing two hours worth of material.

And some of those minor parts were real honest-to-goodness show stealers. I'm not taking away from Jim Hurd (Daddy Warbucks), Annie (Emily Maurer), or Sarah Ackerman-Hale (Miss Hannigan), they do a fantastic job with a ton of material. But Jade Haney as Molly, one of the minor orphans, I've never in my life seen someone so natural to the stage. She's nine years old and completely fearless and radiant. See also Amy Castle as Lily St. Regis (positively salacious), or Pete Logan's FDR. Or Brian Fibelkorn in a few roles.

Okay, it's community theater: like I say, the sound reinforcement could have been better. There are a few spots where you could fault a member of the pit orchestra or whatever, but for a bunch of unpaid amateurs, I wouldn't have expected overall production values this high. Eight bucks a ticket, and I just checked: to see North Carolina Theatre's production (the nearest professional one I could find), you'll spend almost ninety bucks to sit where I sat today. Yes, their orchestra and sound reinforcement is probably better, but $80 better?

I'm about to talk logic, sort of.

The logical plot hole is the bane of my existence as a sometimes aspiring novelist. And Annie is rife with them. It's 1933, (or 1993, for that matter), imagine a single man trying to adopt an eleven year old girl. Nothing hinkey there, right?

I realize the 'secretary' Grace functions as a defacto mother figure, but still, you'd have to write a different version of the song 'Little Girls' if you thought about that realistically, and it wouldn't be Miss Hannigan's song.

Then again, why is Miss Hannigan resistant to the idea of Annie leaving if the kid is the bane of her existence? When is a sub-plot more than a sub-plot? When the big hand reaches the little hand.

I actually thought of an out for Hannigan: maybe she's paid by the head. Otherwise, there's no (defensible) reason for her to care if Annie or any of the other orphans stay or go.

But then, if you want plausible plots, you can't have FDR as a sympathetic character. He did about as much to solve the Depression as the Taliban did for women's rights.

Which I guess makes Annie perfect from a standpoint of timeliness. The same basic crisis, caused by the same basic factors, is upon us again. And we have the same misguided answers being fed to us by a new generation of charismatic charlatans and well-credentialed idiots. Bend over and relax, the good news is it won't last much more than a decade (I hope).

Anyway, if Annie was realistic it probably wouldn't be much of a show. Who wants to come see an orphan learn that not only are her parents not coming to save her, but neither is any rich mogul coming to the rescue?

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