Arts & Entertainment

Cappie Review: Falls Church High School’s ‘Annie’

By Rosabel Liu, Chantilly High School

From left to right: Drake, played by Benjamin Rodriguez-Chicas; Oliver Warbucks, played by Colt Armstrong; Annie, played by Ellie Whitfield; and Grace, played by Kate Schlageter-Prettyman (Photo: Christine Child)

Annie, a redheaded child beloved by generations.  Thanks to her, everyone knows that “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” In Falls Church High School’s impressive production, Annie and her crew reminded the world to hold on to hope.

In this classic tale of optimism and found family, Annie is an orphan girl during the Great Depression, terrorized by the head of the orphanage, the bitter Miss Hannigan. She runs away to search for her parents, but eventually ends up being adopted by the billionaire Oliver Warbucks, who believes that this hopeful child is what he’s been missing despite all his wealth and success. In a twist on history, Annie also cheers up President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Cabinet, inspiring them to create the New Deal.

The story of “Annie” originated as a 1920s comic strip that was adapted decades later into a musical with a script by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Martin Charnin. The show opened on Broadway in 1977 and swept the Tony Awards that year, winning Best Musical among other recognitions.

As the radiant Annie, Ellie Whitfield embodied the essence of her character perfectly with wide-eyed expressions and a consistent little-girl attitude that helped her seem eleven and bursting with energy, while her work with the live dog Sandy (Whimsy Cheddarbean) was flawless. Whitfield’s vocals in “Tomorrow” shone with a natural vibrato and powerful belt that conveyed Annie’s ceaseless positivity. Whitfield’s Annie and Colt Armstrong, playing the billionaire Oliver Warbucks, built a charming father-daughter relationship over the course of the show as Annie’s enthusiasm encouraged Warbucks to open up. Armstrong skillfully portrayed Warbucks’ character evolution from aloof to joyful with his polished, yet expressive singing, and delighted the audience with stoic humor while expressing skepticism over Democrats. Warbucks’ secretary, Grace Farrell (Kate Schlageter-Prettyman) developed into a caring mother figure for Annie, maintaining her prim and sweet character at all times through upright posture and neat hand gestures.

On the villainous side, Miss Hannigan (Quinn Lopez) dominated the stage with sarcasm and exaggerated movements that remained wonderfully consistent, whether Lopez was speaking to an orphan or the President. Miss Hannigan’s brother, Rooster (Lam Vu) and Lily St. Regis (Dara Kearney) delivered hysterical comedy as a crooked couple in need of money. While posing as Annie’s father, Vu repeatedly adjusted Rooster’s ever-peeling mustache, which threatened to betray his disguise, to reveal Rooster’s sloppiness and deceit. Miss Hannigan, Rooster, and Lily united as a hilarious trio in “Easy Street,” where they swaggered and danced in a fantasy of becoming rich.

Period-accurate coats for the people of New York City and patched dresses for the orphans were compiled in drab colors to convey their disheartened energy, while crisp black-and-white uniforms delineated the Warbucks servants (Isabelle Paparella, Sophie Veas, Sydney Grimard, Aaron Seide). Lighting (Chloe Brown, Brian Gutierrez Lujan, Aleks Jachimiak, Nathalie Medina-Sadias) also coordinated with the mood, since orange illuminated more downtrodden street scenes while blue highlighted happier scenes in the Warbucks mansion. The set (Max Purtill, Leslie Fon, set crew) included movable stairs that were rearranged to represent both the orphanage and the mansion; all transitions were smoothly and efficiently handled by Stephanie Mejia Ramos, Ali Lieberman, and the running crew. Projections (McKenna Cobb, Justin Chenh) were used for decorating the White House set and for the door to the orphanage, allowing performers to stand silhouetted behind the screen before knocking and entering.

Remarkable performers and clever tech elements balanced comedy and tenderness at Falls Church High School, following one orphan Annie to her found family.