Penrith Musical Comedy Company: Annie - Review by Daniel Conway
In all art there are examples that define the form for those that don't follow it. If you don't like art, you know the Mona Lisa; if you don't like horror movies you know who Freddie Kruger is and If you don't know musicals, you know Annie. This is a tentpole musical that has permeated the cultural understanding, but also is a great choice of show for what PMCC offer the theatre space. A show with a big ensemble, young performers and a sense of fun.
This production is filled with charming performances but I have to start with the father - daughter team Kiara and Peter Gollop as Annie and Warbucks. Kiara is one of two actresses cast in the role, and Opening night she kicked off the production superbly. Kiara is charming, has good comic timing and has a wonderful voice. The role of Annie is a big sing for a young performer and Kiara manages it very well. It is no shock that Kiara is a fantastic singer, just listen to her father. Peter Gollop has a wonderful voice and when he hit his sweet spot it is really engrossing. You couldn't help see how special this was for both of these performers. During "I Don't Need Anything But You" you can see the emotion, this wasn't Warbucks singing to Annie, it was a father singing to his daughter and it was beautiful. I do need to note that the photos in the review are from the "Red" cast and show Vivekah Grundy in the role of Annie, who I am sure is just as fantastic.
The production is true ensemble piece with performers who are all working really hard on stage. One of the brightest stars is Kiana-Lei Mahe as Grace Farrell. Her voice is great, her acting is so fun and she really elevated every scene she was in. Seriously someone cast her as Mary Poppins. Sarah Jarvis was amazing as Miss Hannigan. She made really bold choices and had some great comedic moments. The people sitting behind me were so caught up with her performance they couldn't help comment about how devious and cruel she was to the children. Emily Adams as Lily St Regis, is really funny and has an infectious energy putting on a voice that would be grating if she wasn't so charming. Nicholas Nisbet is great as Rooster. This is Nisbets' first production and he really impresses on stage and I don't just say that because I used to teach him! One of the most impressive vocal performances is Scott Bolas. Bolas voice is crazy good and cuts through in every ensemble number. I do need to talk about two robbers on stage, Niamh Carroll and Michelle Martin. Caroll is fantastic, so funny and is a real MVP of the kids chorus. Martin is so warm I couldn't help notice her whenever she was on stage. Both stole scenes and just brought so much joy.
Opening nights are never without faults and while the cast worked really hard, there were issues with diction and cues as well as sound mixing. I am sure some of this will be smoothed out as the run continues and the nerves settle. One piece of feedback I have for the company is perhaps think about staging and how to better use space. I wonder if the scaffolding that is on stage could be used more thoughtfully? I wonder if the screen is needed? I say this because while everyone is working really hard, in the bigger numbers space to move seemed to be an issue and some of the set pieces didn't always feel purposeful. All in all, this is a production with a lot of heart. I give it 3 out of 5 cleaning buckets.
Photos courtesy of Brenden Neaton of Neaton Photography & Film