By Rick Busciglio (www.njfootlights.net)
Looking for a warm and fuzzy all family holiday show? Look no further than the Centenary Stage Company in Hackettstown. The CSC is spot-on by billing their current production of Annie the Musical as a ‘Family Holiday Spectacular.” This a simply wonderful smile event from opening curtain to the well deserved cast bows. And what a cast director Michael Blevins has assembled. It is a large cast (60!) of professional leads with impressive Broadway credentials supported by marvelous local talent. Pros include Broadway veteran Liz McConahay Wanfried, a perfect comedy delight as the evil Miss Hannigan. As is Justin Boccitto as Rooster the equally evil brother of Miss Hannigan. [Above: Osborn Focht (Daddy Warbucks) Gracie Nagle (Annie)]
Osborn Focht, last seen at CSC as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol the musical, is just the right mix of privileged bluster in the outside world and tender, thoughtful to all within his personal world. His personal secretary is played by the remarkable Alycia Kunkle. A particular favorite of CSC patrons. Ms. Kunkle… super efficient while being Annie’s biggest booster. Patrick Cogan has great fun as FDR as does Timothy Liam Smith as the radio performer Bert Healy.
The supporting cast includes Nora Elkind as Lilly, Rooster's accomplice; Deirdre Byrant-Worth as Mrs. Greer; Cynthia Livingston (a CSC holiday regular); and Na’Jee Tariq as the butler Drake.
Eight other cast members deserve a very special recognition….special not only because they are 12 and under, but they are the core of the show….they sing, dance and win hearts big time. At the center is a delightful young lady, Gracie Nagle, a seven-year veteran of CSC’s Young Performers Workshop, making her professional debut. What can I say; she won my heart from the first moment she started to sing the show’s hit song, "Tomorrow." Annie’s six orphanage pals, Tess Clark (Molly); Annabelle Plociniak (Pepper); Olivia Budd (Duffy); Mary Young (July); Violet Caruso and Nancy Pereyra (Tessie) sing and dance with charm, enthusiasm, and impressive energy. In other words, they are obviously enjoying their moments in the spotlight. The eighth cast member who performed as a stage veteran was Clementine (Sandy), a rescue dog!
The ensemble includes Joe Anthony, Muriel Baki, Nick Bettens, Jenna Black, Nicole Boscarino, Will Brockman, Alan Bronstein, Serena Buchan, Jerry Caviston, Jessica DeFort, Tatiana Garcia, Sebastian Gutkin, Kayla Hartman, Kira Herkenham, Matthew Hollis. AJ Lewis, Rachel Lee, Megan Moran, Brianna Morris, Tim Nagle, Victoria Pulido, Alani Rose, James Russo, Lauren Santarelli, Jibril Scott, Jack Scarsi, Matthew Sigler, Maxinne Spann, Saquan Williams, David Atticus Yawger, Jackson Yawger.
The fine orchestra led by music director Jared Lee includes Tara Crincoli, Sean Francios, Tim Wendt, Jim Lutz, Angela Williams, Emily Jones, Nicole D'Angelo, and Benjamin Saporito.
Director/ choreographer Michael Blevins' creative staff includes Jeff Chase technical director; Aaron Porter and Ashleigh Poteat set design; Aaron Porter light design; Maxine Spann sound design, Ashleigh Poteat costume design; Dani Pietrowski prop design; and stage manager Kelly Fitzgerald. The producers are Carl Wallnau, CSC Artistic Director, and Catherine Rust, General Manager.
Let’s skip to the chase; this a wonderful warmhearted production that will have ALL family members smiling. Perfect holiday treat will be a visit with everyone’s orphan, Annie, at the Centenary Stage Company’s Sitnik theater in the Lackland Performing Arts Center until December 9. Oh, "remember, you are never fully dressed without a smile."
For more information or to purchase tickets visit centenarystageco.org or call the Centenary Stage Company box office at (908) 979 – 0900. The box office is located in the Lackland Performing Arts Center at 715 Grand Ave. Hackettstown, NJ. The box office is open Monday through Friday from 1 – 5 pm and two hours prior to each performance.
Photos by Chris Young