It takes a real charmer to animate the Annie character from the famed musical adaption of Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie comic strip. That charmer happens to be Peyton Del Papa. She delivers the exact amount of panache to make for a most delightful evening in Cardinal Music Productions presentation of the classic musical Annie now playing at the Green Room Theatre at Windsor’s E.J. Lajeunesse Secondary School.
Annie is a beloved red headed orphan picked by Oliver Warbucks’ personal secretary Grace Farrell to spend Christmas of 1933 in the billionaire’s New York City mansion. Regan White plays the secretary with immaculate sophistication and, although she is the glue holding the plot together, it almost all comes unglued when she picks a Annie.
Warbucks would rather a boy, one who knows of such baseball heroes as Babe Ruth. In this scene Del Papa particularly shines. Her face is so palpable with apprehension, when learning she might be rejected, it saddens the audience.
At this point she has already endeared herself, not only for her acting but her singing as well and continues to build admiration throughout the play. Unforgettable are her renditions of the trademark Annie songs Tomorrow and I think I’m Gonna Like It Here.
Playing the role of Annie did have its share of challenges. In one scene, she escapes the orphanage by hiding in a laundry cart. It is, Del Papa tells Eyes On Windsor, a most scary part of the play for the young actor because she has no bearings.
After the escape she takes a risk many seasoned actors try to avoid, playing alongside a dog. In this case scene-stealer Sandy. It is clear even Sandy loves Del Papa’s Annie, particularly at one point with a noticeable and determined look of affection.
Sandy is not the only scene-stealer. There is also, to the joy of the audience, eight-year old Koen Kavanaugh as orphan Tessie. Kavanaugh has been acting since she was two and really knows how to elevate her speaking parts with great grace and determined character. Acting, she says, is something she loves and it shows.
Both the adorable Kavanagh and the highly impressive Del Papa, like many before them, are discoveries of impresario Joe Cardinal. This is his fifteenth year of operation. Over that decade and a half there have been 30 musicals and none have disappointed.
For 23 years, Cardinal tells Eyes on Windsor, he has wanted to stage Annie, since playing Alvin T. Patterson in Windsor Light Theatre’s production of Annie sequel Annie Warbucks. If only, he says, because it is such a well-known musical and it is so family-friendly.
In the play, Cardinal plays Daddy Warbucks and impressively brings out his character’s warm side. Warbucks is a shrewd businessman who says you really don’t have to, “be nice to people on your way up if you don’t plan to be coming back down.”
Annie, it turns out is full of good lines. One of the funniest is when Lindsay Norris, acting as orphanage manager the often-tipsy Miss Hannigan, meets the inauthentic Lily St. Regis, played flauntingly by Nina Fasullo, who is said to be named after the hotel. “Which one,” smirks Hannigan.
And there are more Del Papas than Peyton. Her father Rob, with considerable crowd-pleasing aplomb, does justice to not one but four roles including a chef, a kindly police officer and a member of Theodore Roosevelt’s Cabinet. Roosevelt himself, in a much-admired antique wheelchair, is played by the highly subtle James Kneely.
While putting together a play of this magnitude is no easy task, one of the most demanding tasks has to be that of costume designer. A number of sequences sees the need for period costumes for the orphan girls, there are 17 of them, for the residents of the impoverished Hooverville, the White House, a radio studio and the Warbucks’ mansion. Sherry Bondy does an exceptional job particularly in dressing Annie from poor orphan to soon to be Warbucks’ adopted daughter.
Through all of this Del Papa and the cast perform some twenty songs, all in perfect harmony and in perfect characterization under the direction of Regan White. They also dance in period style with choreography executed excellently by Nina Fasullo.
In all there are 33 cast members, making this a large production. With considerable song and dance, Cardinal has fashioned a fine evening of rock-solid entertainment with both a fascinating story and a much-loved music soundtrack. It is well worth a date with Annie this weekend.
The production recreates the original Broadway musical which opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, setting a record for the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre). It spawned numerous productions in many other countries, as well as national tours, and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical’s songs “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life” are among its most popular numbers.
Music is by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan. Directed by Joseph Anthony Cardinal. Musical direction by Regan White. Choreography by Nina Fasullo.
The musical is performed in the E.J. Lajeunesse Green Room Theatre with performances on September 21, 22, 27, 28, & 29, 2019. Shows take place at 8pm on Friday and Saturday, and 2pm on Sunday.
Tickets are $25 for general seating and available at the Cardinal Music box office at 2569-B Jefferson Blvd. or by calling 519-944-5800. The Green Room Theatre is located at 600 E.C. Row Avenue West (inside E.J. Lajeunesse Secondary School).
For more information visit the Annie The Musical Page on the Eyes On Windsor Events Calendar.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.