October 31, 2010:
"ALL OF A SUDDEN"
Well, dear readers, the sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun. What am I, Annie all of a sudden? No, I am not Annie all of a sudden, I am BK all of a sudden who has just returned from seeing Annie all of a sudden. I first saw Annie all of a sudden at the Shubert Theater her in LA – the first national tour. I took the darling daughter to see it. I didn’t think that much of the show, frankly – it seemed lifeless and the Shubert dwarfed everything on the stage. I can’t remember who played Miss Hannigan, but I didn’t think she was great, nor did I find the Annie great, but did like Tom Hatten as FDR. The next time I saw Annie was a few years later when a new tour came through town and played the Pantages. Again I took the darling daughter to see it, and this time we both loved it. The Annie was terrific (Louanne), and Ruth Kobart was a fantastically funny Miss Hannigan. My next experience was with the film version, which I loathed every minute of. Then, over the years, whenever I’d need a pick me up, I’d watch the Annie segment from the Tony Award show, with Andrea McArdle and the original company, and most importantly, the glorious Dorothy Loudon, the original Miss Hannigan. Everything about that segment made me happy, especially Easy Street and the phenomenal Peter Gennaro choreography for You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile. The last time I saw Annie all of a sudden was about ten or eleven years ago – the Nell Carter tour. I was going to record it, until, that is, I actually saw it. It was a dreadful production – Miss Carter, who is a terrific performer, was just not Miss Hannigan. The orphans were cute, but Martin Charnin’s production was just tired and by the numbers and he seemed to have completely forgotten what made the original work. I did meet a cute little girl with a terrific voice – one of the orphans – Cassidy Ladden, and I did hire her for the Sondheim at the Movies album. That production really left a bad taste in my mouth. When Charnin put together yet another tour a few years ago, I almost went to see it because my old pal Mackenzie Phillips was in it. I can’t remember who began that tour as Hannigan, but I do know that at some point Sally Struthers took over, and my guess is that she was terrific. And so, last night I saw the Musical Theatre West production of Annie all of a sudden, this time with a very interesting casting twist – the show’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle would be playing Miss Hannigan, an idea that sure sounded good on paper. Our very own Damon Kirsche was in the cast, and that was reason enough for me to go see it. It was opening night. I went with Mr. Barry Pearl, who seems to know everyone on the planet. I did know a few people – David Engel, Larry Raben, Kim Huber (her adorable daughter is playing one of the orphans), Kirstin Chandler, Susanne Blakeslee, Michelle Duffy (who’ll be doing the December Gardenia show), and a few others.
I’ve decided that I really like Annie – and I also think that Mr. Charnin should not be allowed anywhere near it – and I think others agree, as James Lapine is going to direct a revival next season. The show has some solid laughs, some great Strouse and Charnin songs, and some real heart. Where this production really shines is the Annie – Melody Hollis – who’s just terrific. Never phony baloney or precocious, and with a certain deadpan delivery that really works on some of the laugh lines. I saw her in White Christmas on Broadway – she was fun in that show, but here she comes into her own. Jeff Austin was a fine Oliver Warbucks, and Shannon Warne was a fine Grace. Damon played a variety of roles, and stood out as Bert Healy. Which brings us to Miss McArdle. Let’s get one thing out of the way first – she’s an excellent singer, actress, and performer. And, as I said, the idea seemed good on paper. But, to make a long story long, it’s simply not a good fit. Miss McArdle is just not a comic performer and this role demands a true comic actress, in fact it requires a genius comic actress – someone like Sally Struthers could do it in her sleep. Dorothy Loudon was one of the great Broadway comic actresses and that’s why everything she did in the original production worked – she knows how to do a take, do a pause, do a bit, extend a laugh – it’s an art and it really has to be in the performer. You can tell someone “Wait two beats, look here, do this at this point” or whatever, but if they don’t have the comedy in their soul it just can’t really work. She got through it all and sang well, but she’s just not a Miss Hannigan. Interestingly, because of that, the emotional part of the story, the Annie and Warbucks relationship, played better than in most productions I’ve seen. The pace is fine, the band is good, and I had a very nice time.
After the show, we hung around and talked to people, and then we finally headed back to the San Fernando Valley. Before the show, we dined at something called Fish Tale – I ordered the fried clams, because I love fried clams and can’t find them anywhere these days, but it wasn’t really what I should have ordered. I should have had the swordfish or the halibut. The fried clams are good for about three minutes, then get awfully boring. They came with fries and those were quite good. I also has some clam chowder (it was a clammy night), and that, too, was good. The best thing, actually, was the bread – that was truly yummilicious. Prior to that, I’d had a somewhat relaxing day of paying an obscene number of Kritzerland bills – thankfully, the important envelope arrived and that helps ease the pain.
Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below because it is really late and I’ve got to get my beauty sleep all of a sudden.
Has anyone noticed the following two things: It is Halloween, and the final day of October. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, tomorrow ushers in November, a month we hope and pray will be filled with health, wealth, happiness, creativity, and all things bright and beautiful. So, today, if dear reader Jeanne is still up for lunch we’ll probably do that – as I heard very late last night that we won’t be mixing today. If not, I’ll just hang out and watch motion pictures until the trick or treaters arrive. I do have to buy about three more big bags of candy, so a trip to Gelson’s will have to be done.
Tomorrow, we announce our new Kritzerland release, and then I’ll hopefully be printing out lots of orders. Then Tuesday we have our stumble-through, and I have a work session with The Singer, then Wednesday is our show, and there are lots of other things going on this week.
Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do a jog, watch movies, maybe lunch with dear reader Jeanne, and hand out a LOT of candy. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s free-for-all day, the day in which you dear readers get to make with the topics and we all get to post about them. So, let’s have loads of lovely topics and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst we hit the road to dreamland all of a sudden and get ready for a scary Halloween all of a sudden.