OFFBEAT: Paramount's production of 'Annie' is extraordinary fun and entertaining

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-11-26T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Paramount's production of 'Annie' is extraordinary fun and entertainingPhilip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

There couldn't be a more perfect space to enjoy the Broadway musical "Annie" then Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Ill.

Considering this story about the little orphan hopeful to find a home, based on the famed newspaper comic strip of the same name, is set during the Great Depression in the early 1930s and the beautiful, opulent Paramount opened in 1931, it's a match that couldn't be written any better.

Add to all of this the fantastic casting of 12-year-old Caroline Heffernan in the title role, Gene Weygandt as Daddy Warbucks, and Mikey the Dog as Sandy, and it's a jackpot worth more than all of Warbuck's riches.

Running now until Dec. 30, "Annie," is directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell and her timing for this staging is plan perfect.

Since the just over two hour story has Christmas scenes and hope, this is a welcomed invitation for holiday entertainment.

With music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, book by Thomas Meehan, the Broadway musical is based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie which first appeared in the New York Daily News in 1924. The strip became an instant hit and decades later, the original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for six years. And by 1982, the popular film version was released in 1982 starring Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters and Aileen Quinn as the red curly top.

Weygandt as Warbucks and Heffernan as Annie have stellar voices and an undeniable stage chemistry.

But this duo has also met tough competition from the boundless talent of actress Christine Sherrill as mean Miss Hannigan. Sherrill is beautifully blowsy. Her comic timing and wild eyed approach rules her every scene. Jake Klinkhammer is also in fine form as her sneaky brother Rooster, plotting to kidnap Annie for a would-be fortune.

The rest of this fine cast includes Emily Rohm as Grace Farrell, funny Maggie Portman as Lily, with the adult ensemble including Larry Adams, Kelsey Andres, Aaron Conklin, Adam Estes, Cynthia Fortune Gruel, Brian Michael Hoffman, Glory Kissel, Tommy Lucas, Mandy Modic, Amy Orman, Rebecca Pink, Steven Pringles, Liam Quealy, Todd Rhoades, Don Richard, Holly Stauder, Bret Tuomi and Lauren Villegas.

In addition, 12 talented little girls have been cast (in rotation) as Annie's fellow orphans.

In the role of Sandy is Mikey, a mutt of uncertain parentage seized from a family who neglected him for the first three years of his life. He has been starring in productions of Annie all over the country for the last five years.

Behind the scenes, Paramount's production team has Linda Buchanan at the helm as scenic designer with amazing imagination for the beautiful ever-changing scenes audiences are treated to in both acts. Theresa Ham is the fabric and frill wiz for costume designer and Greg Hofmann handles lighting designer. An added treat for this productions sets the tone early on. Mike Tutaj, projection designer; is behind an array of real vintage images of Depression era breadlines and sad scenes shown at time with the backdrop.

Tickets are $34.90 to $46.90 at or (630) 896-6666.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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