Rave On Productions Announces Sophomore Season of ‘The Omaha Series’

Omaha, NE–After a critically acclaimed debut season that blew in with the ferocity of a hurricane and netted a jaw dropping 9 nominations at the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, Rave On Productions has announced its second season of The Omaha Series and its guaranteed to have something for everybody.

The brain child of Rave On’s owner, Billy McGuigan, and Rave On’s Artistic and Education Director, Kimberly Faith Hickman, the Omaha Series presents musical productions in traditional and non-traditional venues throughout the Omaha metro area.

The Omaha Series 2022 Season

Rock of Ages
April 7-16
Venue: The Waiting Room (6212 Maple Street)

Rock Of Ages is a five-time Tony Award-nominated musical telling the story of a small-town girl, a city boy and a rock ‘n’ roll romance on the Sunset Strip. When the bar where rock reigns supreme is set to be demolished, it’s up to a group of rockers and their band of friends to save the day…and the music! Can Drew, Sherri and the gang save the strip before it’s too late? Only the 80s best rock anthems and power ballads hold the answer!

Rock Of Ages’ electric score features smash, hair band hits like Bon Jovi’s WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, Poison’s EVERY ROSE HAS ITS THORN, Foreigner’s I WANNA KNOW WHAT LOVE IS, Whitesnake’s HERE I GO AGAIN, Journey’s DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’ and so many more! So grab your aqua net and get ready to rock and roll all night at The Waiting Room!

Don’t Stop Me Now
June 9-11
Venue: SumTur Amphitheater (11691 S 108th St in Papillion, NE)

Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time. I feel ali–i –i-iiiive celebrating the most popular and acclaimed rock musicals of all time! Don’t Stop Me Now delivers an energetic concert featuring favorites from musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar, Jersey Boys, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rock of Ages, Dreamgirls, Hair, Rent and more! Everybody cut loose – Footloose – kick off your Sunday shoes and be swept up in a rock musical journey through time. All the strange rock and rollers, you’re know you’re doing all right at Don’t Stop Me Now!

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka
July 22-31
Venue: The Scottish Rite (202 S 20th St)

Roald Dahl’s timeless story of the world-famous candy man and his quest to find an heir comes to life on the Scottish Rite stage July 22 – 31. Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka features a cast of young performers as they take the audience on a fantasy ride into the land of pure imagination! Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka includes classic songs like “Pure Imagination”, “The Candy Man”, “(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket”, “Oompa-Loompa-Doompadee-Doo”, “I Want It Now” and more! This family-friendly scrumdidilyumptious musical is guaranteed to delight everyone’s sweet tooth!

Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra
August 18-20
Venue: SumTur Amphitheater (11691 S 108th St in Papillion, NE)

Like many of us out there, the feeling Billy got from watching big rock bands from the 70s was exhilarating and it’s an energy that is re-created with Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra. His musical influences left an incredible impact on the type of entertainer Billy was to become. Think of 1970’s Jumpsuit Elvis, the Moody Blues who put symphonic interludes in the middle of a rock song, ELO with an electric horn and string section – rock & roll was transformed! As Billy navigates the audience through decades of classic gems, he does so backed by a rock orchestra that can match his energy in force. The set list is as varied and versatile as Billy himself.

The Rocky Horror Show
Oct 21-29
Venue: The Slowdown (729 N 14th St)

One fateful night, Brad and Janet – a wholesome, well-behaved, utterly normal young couple in love – innocently set out to visit an old professor. A thunderstorm and a flat-tire force them to seek help at the castle of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, an alien, transvestite scientist with a manic genius and insatiable libido played by glam rocker, Benn Sieff. Brad, Janet and Frank ‘N’ Furter’s cohorts are swept up into the scientist’s latest experiment. A loving homage to the class B sci-fi film and horror genres with an irresistible rock ‘n’ roll score is a hilarious, wild ride that no audience will soon forget.

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience
Nov 25-Dec 30
Venue: The Slowdown (729 N 14th St)

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience is the nation’s most innovative and unique show utilizing the works of The Beatles. This amazing band, anchored by brothers Billy, Matthew and Ryan McGuigan perform as themselves and leave the song choices completely in the hands of the audience. This is done through request cards that audience members fill out prior to the show. On those cards, the audience member only needs to fill out three things: their name, their favorite Beatles song and the reason why they chose that song. The cards are collected and two minutes before the show begins, a set list is created based upon the songs chosen by that particular audience. As an added treat, the reasons that the audience members chose those songs make up the narrative of the evening. Every show is different, every show is interactive, and every show Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience proves that The Beatles’ music truly is the soundtrack to our lives.

Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul! You’ll Really Love ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Newly engaged Brad and Janet are in for quite a night when they stumble upon the home of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, a mad scientist with a yen for cross dressing and sexual deviancy.  It’s The Rocky Horror Show and its running at The Slowdown under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

Rave On Productions ends its freshman season of theatrical productions with a show that I currently consider to be the best of the season.  Richard O’Brien’s cult rock musical requires a very special group of performers who have to be completely dedicated to the over the top, raunchy ode to cheesy, schlocky sci-fi and be able to belt out a tune.  This show has that and far, far more.

It brings back some of the cast and crew from the award-winning Omaha Playhouse production of 2019, but blows that run right out of the water (a highly difficult task) with a nuclear powered version done the way it was meant to be with full audience participation with prop bags and a screen to help prompt newbies when to utilize said props and provide the dialogue to answer the performers.

Kaitlyn McClincy returns to direct the production, but has teamed up with Kimberly Faith Hickman and their teamwork creates something truly formidable.  Their staging utilizes the entire space of The Slowdown.  Their coaching pulls some truly phenomenal performances out of their thespians and the background bits they have the actors doing when they’re not the focus of the scene really fleshes out the tale and makes one forget they were working without a set.

Every single actor should be proud of the work they did in this show as there isn’t a flat tire among them.  Props to Eric Perlstein and Britney Thompson for quite literally being the props and set of the show.  Evelyn Hill slays as the snarky Narrator of the story.  Ryan McGuigan absolutely kills it in a cameo as Dr. Scott with that amazing tenor rocking out in “Eddie’s Teddy”.  Billy McGuigan is spot on as Frank ‘N’ Furter’s new playmate, Rocky, whose own dazzling tenor mesmerized the audience with “The Sword of Damocles”.  Erika Hall-Sieff and Kevin Buswell bring real creepiness and an understated malevolence to their roles as Magenta and Riff Raff plus we got to enjoy Hall-Sieff’s rich alto serenade us with “Science Fiction/Double Feature” plus a long coda in “Planet Schmanet Janet” while Buswell’s high tenor brought the audience to their feet to do the “Time Warp” again.  Courtney Cairncross’ energy is unmeasurable with her take on Columbia and truly shines after she gets her brain zapped with a prolonged series of gyrations and snorts.

Benn Sieff returns to his Fonda-McGuire winning role of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter and seems to be enjoying himself even more if that was even possible.  His complete dedication to the role makes for a gripping watch and his mammoth presence (physical and energy wise) make certain all eyes are glued to him.  You could feel him feeding off the crowd and fueling his fantastic performance and his ballistic baritone thrilled the audience with “Sweet Transvestite” and “Charles Atlas Song/I Can Make You a Man”.  And he actually almost brought me to tears with his sense of defeat and sadness in “I’m Going Home”.

Jesse White turns in another spectacular performance with his turn as Brad Majors.  White is truly nerdy and a genuine prick (trust me, watch his behavior and attitude towards Janet).  He also has an incredible sense of improv as he was able to work in some musical responses to audience commentary.  But his almost sonic vocals sold me on his work as he belted out “Dammit Janet” and actually made me feel a little sorry for him with his hangdog melancholy in “Once in a While”.

Nina Washington is repression personified with her take on Janet Weiss.  Ostensibly, she starts off as the stereotypical damsel in distress, but she blossoms in an awful hurry after she gets deflowered and develops an instant addiction to sex as she pursues Rocky like a shark in “Toucha Toucha Toucha, Touch Me” and has real wonderment in her alto as she ponders her strange adventures in “Super Heroes”.

Amanda Fehlner’s costumes were absolutely superb especially with the fishnets and lingerie for Frank ‘N’ Furter and others, Magenta’s maid’s outfit, the ill-fitting tuxedo of Riff Raff, and Rocky’s golden shorty shorts.  Kimberly Faith Hickman’s choreography was so much fun especially with “Time Warp” and a rather exuberant dance from Magenta to close out “Planet Schmanet Janet”.  Charlie Ames’ lighting always suited the feel of the scenes with depressing blues of more melancholic numbers and a fiery red for more charged scenes.  Matthew McGuigan does superlative work with his musical direction as he seemed to take influences from different versions of the show and infused it with something from his own soul and he and his band (Ryan McGuigan, Max Meyer, Stan Harper, Jay Hanson, Darren Pettit, and Larell Ware) knocked this score clear out of the ballpark.

You still have three chances to catch this show and I advise you to take advantage while you have the chance for this show is selling out fast.  It’s a megaton of fun.

The Rocky Horror Show runs as the Slowdown through October 31.  Remaining shows are midnight on Oct 30 and 31 and a 7:30pm show on Oct 31.  Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at https://www.theomahaseries.com/rockyhorror.  Due to mature themes and content, this show is not suitable for children.  The Slowdown is located at 729 N 14th St in Omaha, NE.

Photo created by Carly Frolio

Rave On Productions Set to Provide Halloween Fix with ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Omaha, NE: Just in time for Halloween, Rave On Productions continues its spectacular Omaha Series with Richard O’Brien’s legendary ode to schlocky sci-fi, The Rocky Horror Show.

This musical tells the story of newly engaged Janet and Brad whose car breaks down in the middle of who knows where. Seeking help, they find the home of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, a delightfully deranged transvestite scientist who has created a new playmate for himself in the form of Rocky. What follows is a wildly raucous night of comedy, double entrendres, and hijinks.

Now you can enjoy The Rocky Horror Show in all of its audience participating glory when it runs at The Slowdown (729 N 14th St in Omaha, NE) for six performances Oct 29-31.

Rave On’s show brings back some of the award winning cast and crew from the 2019 production mounted at the Omaha Community Playhouse including director Kaitlyn McClincy, Erika Hall-Sieff, Kevin Buswell, and Benn Sieff who reprises his Fonda-McGuire award winning role of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter.

Joining them is a cast of some of Omaha’s finest theatrical talent and singers and they can’t wait for you to join in the fun.

Tickets begin at $30 and can be purchased by visiting https://www.theomahaseries.com/rockyhorror. For an additional $10, you’ll be able to purchase a prop bag at the door (no personal props, please) to immerse yourself in this show the way it was meant to be (VIP Balcony tickets will receive a free prop package).

Ready yourselves for a haunting good time and throw yourself into the experience of The Rocky Horror Show.

*Parental discretion highly advised due to mature themes and adult content.

Directed By: Kaitlyn McClincy and Kimberly Faith Hickman
Musical Direction By: Matthew McGuigan

Cast

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter
Jesse White as Brad Majors
Nina Washington as Janet Weiss
Kevin Buswell as Riff Raff
Erika Hall-Sieff as Magenta
Courtney Cairncross as Columbia
Evelyn Hill as Narrator
Billy McGuigan as Rocky
Ryan McGuigan as Dr. Scott
Eric Perlstein as Eddie
Brittney Thompson as Transylvanian

The Band

Matthew McGuigan, Stan Harper, Jay Hanson, Max Meyer, Darren Pettit, and Larell Ware

Maples Repertory Theatre Announces 2021 Season: Looking Forward

I Love a Piano

June 16 – July 11

This celebration of music and lyrics of Irving Berlin follows the journey of a piano as it moves in and out of American lives from the turn of the century to the present. Along the way, the story comes to vibrant life as the cast sings and dances over sixty of Irving Berlin’s most beloved songs including “Blue Skies”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, “Always”, “White Christmas”, and, of course, “I Love a Piano”.

Greater Tuna

June 23 – August 1

Two men play the entire cast of over twenty eccentric characters of both genders and various ages who live in the second smallest town in Texas. It’s an affectionate comment on small-town life and attitudes. Two of Maples Rep’s favorite comedic actors, Michael McIntire and Sean Riley, are slated to star.

Annie

July 16 – August 8

Everyone’s favorite orphan takes the Maples Rep stage to remind us all that optimism and hope will win the day.  Featuring a Tony Award-winning score including “Tomorrow” “Maybe” “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “Little Girls”.  Annie is a lively, exuberant show loved by all ages.

Church Basement Ladies: You Smell Barn

September 29 – October  17

The ladies of the East Cornucopia Lutheran Church are famous for keeping the church running and meeting every hilarious challenge head on.  The new musical follows them home to see how chores family life test their mettle.  It’s nothing a hot dish can’t cure.

Ripcord

October 27 – November 7

Abby has always had a quiet room to herself at the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. If a new roommate was assigned to the second bed, Abby – cantankerous and private – quickly got them out. That is until enthusiastic, optimistic Marilyn arrives. Soon Abby realizes that unseating Marilyn is going to take something special. A high-stakes bet quickly leads to an all-out war of comic proportions. Ripcord is an often slapstick, always surprising comedy about enemies who may or may not become friends.

Tis The Season: A Maples Rep Holiday Celebration

December 1-12

Christmas traditions come to life on stage in the all new, singing and dancing extravaganza.  Your favorite holiday songs and characters will delight the whole family.  It’s the perfect way to celebrate the season with your family and friends.

For tickets, visit http://maplesrep.com/tickets/. Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Creatures of the Night

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Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Newly engaged Brad and Janet have a vehicle breakdown in the middle of nowhere.  They stop at the home of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter to seek assistance and find that the good doctor has created a new. . .playmate.  This is The Rocky Horror Show with book, music, and lyrics by Richard O’Brien and is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it is an homage to cheesy sci-fi films of the 1950s, but with a lot of raunchiness thrown in.  There’s risqué behavior, performers in various states of undress, and a bit of fondling.  So for those uncomfortable with that, consider yourselves forewarned.

I was pretty much a newbie to this show.  I kind of, sort of watched most of the film version once upon a time, but wasn’t paying that close of attention to it.  After watching the stage version, I can honestly say this show is one of the best in the history of the Playhouse.  It is a tremendous amount of fun with catchy songs (brilliantly executed by Jennifer Novak Haar and her band), an intentionally hokey story, some spritely and original choreography, and a great opportunity for audience participation as they are encouraged to bring noisemakers, rubber gloves, toast, flashlights, and even dress up in costume.

Kaitlyn McClincy directs her first full production at the Playhouse with this endeavor.  This is not an easy show to direct due to the colossal amounts of energy required and the suggestive behavior actors need to be led through.  As my friend succinctly stated, “If you ain’t committed, you’re screwed”.  I assure you McClincy and her cast are most thoroughly committed and McClincy’s direction is immaculate and dead on target.

The staging is incredible with Matthew Hamel creating an old-fashioned movie theater for this show to take place.  McClincy makes phenomenal use of the small Howard Drew as she utilizes the entire theatre from stage to seating area to balcony for her actors to tell this story.  She hits all of the hot points of the show to milk the funny and even drilled the rare sentimental moments of the show.  McClincy also has boldly and deftly led her cast to sterling performances from top to bottom.

As I previously stated, energy is crucial to this show and the ensemble hits the ground running and never lets up in a supercharged night of singing and dancing.  Some standout performances came from Jason DeLong who gives an innocent performance as Rocky, Frank ‘N’ Furter’s new creation and shows an impressive set of pipes in “The Sword of Damocles”; Erika Hall-Sieff does well as the sultry domestic, Magenta, and also gets to let her own rich alto shine in “Science Fiction”; Olivia Howard has one of the night’s funniest moments as Columbia with a series of gyrations and movements after having her brain zapped by Frank; and Kevin Buswell is eerily mysterious as the enigmatic butler Riff Raff.

Benn Sieff comes out roaring in his Playhouse debut as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter.  Sieff has incredible instincts and nails the oversexed, over the top mad scientist to the floor.  Sieff has wonderful timing, knowing how to precisely punch a funny line and has a flair for physical comedy, best demonstrated by his bedroom romps with Brad and Janet and he does it all while wearing lingerie and fishnets and gliding around the stage in lifts that add a good six inches to his already towering presence.

Sieff also has a smooth baritone with which he nails comedy in the doctor’s introduction number “Sweet Transvestite” or downright sad and melancholy in one of the night’s few serious moments in “I’m Going Home”.

Cale Albracht is delightfully dorky as Brad.  Albracht’s Brad is a real square and he adds a wonderful stilted and stiff delivery to his lines to emulate the poor actors of cheapo sci-fi films.  Albracht is also a nimble dancer and has a great tenor used to superior effect in “Damn it, Janet” and “Once in a While”.

Charlotte Hedican is sweet and a bit repressed as Janet.  Hedican skillfully handles her hokey dialogue with perfectly sincere camp delivery.  She is also on the mark with the flip from the virginal Janet to the shark smelling blood version after being deflowered by Frank and wants more in “Touch A Touch Me”, one of the top numbers of the evening.

Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco supply some fantastic sounds from the zap of laser guns to the sounds of storms and the electronic whine of viewscreens.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes were on target with the tuxedoes of the Transylvanians, the lingerie and fishnets of Frank (and eventually other characters), Rocky’s form fitting golden tights, and the goody-goody look of Janet’s pink dress and Brad’s dark suit.  Courtney Cairncross provides a dazzling bit of choreography especially with the energetic “Time Warp” and the ensemble dancing in “Touch A Touch Me”.

There seemed to be some microphone difficulties at a few points and some of the actors needed to project a bit more strongly.  That being said, I also want to salute the cast for great poise under pressure by not allowing themselves to get thrown off course when a group of theatregoers began to get a bit disruptive halfway through the second act.

It’s cheesy.  It’s hokey.  It’s just plain silly.  But, heavens, this show is fantastic fun and definitely a treat for the Halloween season over at the Playhouse.  Grab your tickets while you can because I foresee many a sellout for this one.

The Rocky Horror Show plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Nov 10.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Special midnight showings will take place on Oct 19, Oct 26, and Nov 2 with no Sunday show on the following day.  Ticket prices start at $42 for adults and $25 for students at can be obtained at the OCP box office, by phone at 402-553-0800, or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to mature content, this show is not suitable for children.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

OCP Set to Do the Time Warp with ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

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Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Omaha, NE–Cult classic The Rocky Horror Show will make its long-awaited return to the Omaha Community Playhouse when it opens on Friday, Oct 4, 2019.  The show will run in the Howard Drew Theatre from Oct 4-Nov 10.  Special midnight showings will be held on Oct 19, 26, and Nov 2.  No performances will be held on Oct 20, 27, and Nov 3.

After a flat tire renders them helpless in a storm, Brad and his fiancee, Janet, take refuge in the mansion of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, a dangerously eccentric cross-dressing scientist with an insatiable libido.  As the night unfolds, a host of wild characters plunge in and out of rock songs and elaborate dances, stripping the couple of their innocence and leading them to question their traditional stance on sexuality.  This gender-bending musical extravaganza is the most fun you can have in fishnets!  Audience participation and costumes are encouraged.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $42 for adults and $25 for students with prices varying by performance.  Tickets can be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Directed by:  Kaitlyn McClincy

Cast

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Bob Gilmore as Eddie

Cale Albracht as Brad

Charlotte Hedican as Janet

Erika Hall-Sieff as Magenta

Jason Delong as Rocky

Jerry Van Horn as Dr. Scott

Kevin Buswell as Riff Raff

Olivia Howard as Columbia

Rob Baker as Narrator

The Transylvanians will be played by Colin Burk, Connor Meuret, Ejanae Hume, Erin Florea, Evelyn Hill, Jesse White, Jessie Kellerman, Julianna Cooper, Lacey Kiefer, Liliana McMahon, Nathaniel Belshan, Nina Washington, Nora Shelton, Raymond Butler, Riley Perez, and Tonya Stoakes

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

The Sun Will Come Out. . .Sept 13. . . at OCP

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Stella Clark-Kaczmarek as Annie and Toby as Sandy

Omaha, NE–Heartwarming musical Annie will open Friday, Sept 13 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Sept 13 through Oct 13.  Performances will be held Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.

Annie is the beloved tale of a young girl who never gives up hope of one day reuniting with her parents.  After enlisting the help of Depression-era billionaire Oliver Warbucks, Annie finds herself in a tangled web of con artists, kidnappers, and–worst of all–Miss Hananigan!  With a little help from her orphan friends and her dog, Sandy, Annie ultimately finds a place where she belongs in this heartwarming classic.  Featuring timeless songs like “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life”, Annie has been delighting audiences of all ages for decades.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $32 for adults and $20 for students with prices varying by performance.  Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at 402-553-0800, or online at http://www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Directed by:  Kimberly Faith Hickman

Cast

Stella Clark-Kaczmarek as Annie

Jay Srygley as Daddy Warbucks

Angela Jenson Frey as Grace Ferrell

Allison Wissman as Miss Hannigan

Christopher Violett as Rooster

Cathy Hirsch as Lily

Brinlee Roeder as Molly

Olivia Bryant as Pepper

Cleo Washington as Tessie

Pieper Roeder as Kate

Amina Teri as July

Madalynn Johnson as Duffy

And an ensemble featuring Marcus Benzel, Mark Haufle, Peter Barrett, Jared Dominguez, Sadie Langemo, Mary Trecek, Isabelle Rangel, Serena Johnson, Brittney Thompson, Carrie Trecek, Aidan Schmidtke, Andrew Schnitker, Sheldon Ledbetter, Judson Cloudt, Otto Fox, Meghan Essner, Anina Frey, Annabella Mosher, Lily Sanow, Sophia Srygley, Madison White, Andrew Karolski, Camden Park, Will Seim.

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

 

Forget About Tomorrow, “Annie” Shines Today

At the height of the Great Depression, Little Orphan Annie is giving hope to the populace one song and optimistic outlook at a time as she searches for her own parents.  When she meets crusty billionaire Oliver Warbucks, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. . .for both of them.  This is Annie:  The Musical by Thomas Meehan with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin.  It is currently playing at the Rochester Civic Theatre.

The script and score of this show almost feel like a draft as opposed to a final product.  The script is definitely cute and has several amusing, breaking the fourth wall moments.  Likewise, most of the songs are catchy and memorable, if reprised a bit much.  With that being said, the script also lacks a little in character development and fails to further several ideas it introduces.  For example, it’s clear that Annie has a transformative effect on the lives of the people she meets, but we only get to see the aftermath of her charm on people and never the transformative process itself.

Fortunately, the cast and crew are able to perform a bit of Annie magic on the script’s shortcomings.

Under the steady direction of Lee Gundersheimer, this show assuredly becomes more than the sum of its parts.  Gundersheimer guided his troupe to solid, effective performances.  He also has a sure sense of staging with good utilization of the theatre space.  One of the strongest staging moments was the orphans entering Warbucks’ house for Christmas.  Every possible entrance point was used including the auditorium and orchestra pit.

I salute the chorus of this production as they helped to animate the group scenes with the little bits of business crucial to creating this world.  Some standout performances came from Alyssa Keller who shines in a solo (and demonstrates unbelievable breath control) in “N.Y.C.”; Chad Campbell and Gabrielle Hensrud as the slimy, swindling couple, Rooster and Lilly St Regis; Rocco Ruggeri is spot on as the puppeteer for Sandy the dog; and I was especially impressed with Jessica Carey’s performance as Molly.  Though she be tiny, she is fierce as she has an exceptional sense of comedic timing and a larger than life presence.

Shea Morrey makes for an utterly natural Annie.  She’s adventurous.  She’s friendly.  She’s gutsy.  She’s feisty.  She’s determined.  She’s sweet.  I couldn’t help but smile at her nearly limitless optimism and she has a deadly accurate singing voice which soared in “Tomorrow” and “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here”.  She just needs to be certain to keep up the breath support in some of her higher registers.

Mark Morrey is pretty darn good as Oliver Warbucks.  I liked his firm, but fair take on the character.  Arguably, Warbucks is the most developed character in the show as he begins as being focused solely on his business, but peels off the layers to show a terribly lonely man who has a lot more in common with Annie than one would think.  Morrey is permitted to give Warbucks some surprisingly deep moments with “Something Was Missing”.  I also liked how he adapted his singing to the character voice he used for Warbucks, managing to be on key, yet sound as if he were off key at the same time.

Emily Watkins very nearly steals the show as Miss Hannigan.  Ms Watkins clearly had a ball with the role as the drunken, cruel head of the orphanage who forces her wards to clean the orphanage every single day, works them in a sweatshop, and shamelessly throws herself at any man with a pulse who walks through the door.  Ms Watkins skillfully takes this role right to the very brim to the cup, but never goes over the top.

Ellen Huston has supplied a pretty nifty piece of choreography, especially in two show stopping numbers with the children, “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Fully Dressed”.  Sarah Wood Lieske and her orchestra provided a spritely night of music.  Kevin Dobbe and Doug Sween make for a good tandem with the set.  Dobbe’s projections of NYC, alleys, and bridges melded well with Sween’s bunk beds, lavish Warbucks mansion, and conference table of FDR’s Cabinet room.  Marco Magno’s costumes were of excellent quality with the rags of the homeless, the cheap clothes of the orphans, and the elegance of the Warbucks household.  Paul Sund’s lights were exceptional and well suited to each scene and emotional beat of the play.

The show definitely needed much tighter cue pickups last night, but the warm and winning cast has provided a real crowd pleaser for the holiday season.

Annie:  The Musical plays at the Rochester Civic Theatre through December 16.  The show is sold out for the remainder of the run.  Rochester Civic Theatre is located at 3773, 20 Civic Center Dr in Rochester, MN.