‘Annie Live!’ Review

Before the first commercial shutdown, NBC’s Annie Live! offer: newcomer Celina Smith completely successful demonstration of “May”; a group of orphans commuting and cycling their way in “It’s a Hard Life”; the introduction of Taraji P. Henson’s twisted interpretation of Miss Hannigan as The Grinch who tries to steal an orphan’s Christmas; a very good dog; and Smith finished the national anthem “Tomorrow”.

That’s all in 20 minutes and if I stop watching Annie Live! and call it a night, NBC will have a small victory on its hands – a production better in every way than the dismal and absurd success The sound of music that started the craze for live music Peter Pan Live was almost killed and the COVID pandemic froze for a year (the delay in mounting Jennifer Lopez has long grown Bye Bye Birdie space is added). Those 20 minutes probably won’t equal your admirably high energy Hairspray or realistic artistic ambitions of The Wizbut they will accomplish exactly the goal that NBC has chosen Annie in first place six months ago.

Annie Live!

Key point

A flawed but well-timed musical tailored for less-than-optimistic audiences.

Release date: Thursday, December 3

Cast: Celina Smith, Harry Connick Jr., Taraji P. Henson, Nicole Scherzinger, Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty

Annie is a musical about finding optimism in the most desperate of circumstances, the story of a little girl with many hardships during a decade of life in an orphanage and the economic downturn is labeled “amazing” because its vastness not its quality can’t stop her from sticking her chin out, grinning, and looking forward to better days tomorrow. Annie is the musical that America needs now. Or at least it was the musical that distilled its message in such a clear way that NBC could handle and promote its simple optimism.

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Surely, if you look deeper, the real musical’s message is that if you can find a rich benefactor, you’ll never need to eat dough again. It’s an even bigger void today, as anyone who’s really paying attention knows that the 2021 version of Daddy Warbucks will be less interested in adopting hordes of girls – the less said here the better. better – than to hire your own excursions into space and choose to battle on Twitter with progressive statesmen. Instead of, Annie Live! stoked the optimism of a world in which a white billionaire, a Black orphan, and Franklin Roosevelt could come together and get the country out of a mess. And who wouldn’t want to believe that?

To paraphrase the great, late Stephen Sondheim, Annie Not good or bad, it’s just good. It’s a warm cocoa-flavored beverage that lacks enough natural ingredients to call itself “chocolate”. But with a few good performances, one can ignore that Annie insanely preloaded and just keeps replaying its three best songs to pass the time in the second act; that Daddy Warbucks is a character with no arc at all; that Miss Hannigan, undeniably the show’s best character, disappeared for most of the second act; and that it’s presented as a fun musical, in which the climax is a creepy rich guy excitedly telling a child that her parents are actually dead, not a couple rubbing with them “Mudge”.

Of course, these are problems with Annie like a musical and not necessarily a problem with NBC’s Annie Live! They also just happen not to be problems that director Lear deBessonet has any power to mitigate, and problems that certainly don’t get any better when you let NBC break the commercials every seven or so days. eight minutes.

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So what worked in this Annie? It begins, apparently, with Smith, who sings beautifully – one can point to the many big notes she cuts out instead of keeping, which can be as much a product of anxiety as anything else – brilliantly danced and great acting, giving all the sad hope that made Annie a winning character basically, without being as belligerent as some of our more familiar Annies .

Luckily, if what you want is brooding over child actors, the orphanage group is happy to oblige and I wouldn’t even say that’s an insult. “It’s been a tough life” comes out too early on the show to be a showrunner – and even if nothing in the next 150 minutes comes close to matching its spirit, it’s a happy number, fueled by Sergio Trujillo’s choreography and perhaps the only time in the entire show where live TV director Alex Rudzinski just put the camera in place and showed us the staged.

I think Henson’s performance would probably be better viewed from the mezzanine and Rudzinski didn’t support her sometimes jamming the camera in her face. However, the fun Henson gets in the dirtier, more ruthless sides of Miss Hannigan is contagious and it’s the show’s fault, not this production, but the character’s appearance. too lifeless. Tituss Burgess and Megan Hilty are a bit more restrained than I like the Rooster and Lily St. Regis, but they arrived at a time when the show was late and they offered to pick me up. However, does anyone think I would complain about Burgess being so restrained?

As the humdrum final Daddy Warbucks, Harry Connick Jr has a much better address than a regular part devoted to worthy singing. When you sit Connick down at a piano and let him play, he’s amazing, and in “Something Was Missing,” I’m temporarily not distracted by a bald onion-shaped hat that looks like it’s playing. auditioning in a reboot movie Aliens. I wish Nicole Scherzinger had given Connick more acting roles, but I never thought Grace had many roles, except for the first feature film, when Ann Reinking’s dance was masked for lack of text.

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Did not reach the advanced production design level The Wiz (and even Peter Panit’s not “nice” to praise anything about that dud), Annie Live! did some evocative content with the occasional cave setting, especially in the orphanage and Hooverville scenes. I also appreciate the lack of the distracting stunt cast that sometimes marred these NBC productions. It’s “just” a solid chorus, perhaps keeping as many performers off Broadway as possible.

Mention of Broadway getting back on its feet received one of many loud shouts from the audience, which made the audience feel at ease for any major emotional beat and barely laughed at all before. a quality joke by Harpo Marx. The audience at the venue is happy to be there and the audience at home is probably happy to have the live TV musical return. And when everyone is happy, Annie is in its element.

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