The presidential cabinet: Kersten Rodau, Adam Qualls, Randy Schmeling, Bill Scharpen, Carl Schoenborn, and Charles Fraser in Annie. Photo by Rich Ryan.
A locally produced holiday production of Annie is ending is its run at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Since its original opening on Broadway in 1977, Annie has been a repeated family favorite. Director Austene Van has artfully brought together the technical talents of scenic design, lighting design and costume design to provide a visually animated production.
The show’s scenic design is credited to Ming Cho Lee, who provided an updated design of the sets when the Annie musical rolled out for a national touring company in 2005. A Tony Award-winning scenic designer who currently teaches at the Yale School of Drama, Lee is known for his minimalist designs. The minimalist influence is shown in this production, with the simplistic painted scenic backdrops and limited furniture in the show.
Annie requires a number of different set locations, including the orphanage, Fifth Avenue in New York City, a “Hoovertown” for the homeless below the Brooklyn Bridge, the White House and multiple interior locations at Daddy Warbucks’ mansion. The show opens with the only non-backdrop-driven set: the bare scene of a run-down orphanage. From there, the production accomplishes the multiple location changes without delaying the action by using fast-dropping backdrops that power quick transitions. Simplicity is shown with the final scenes at the mansion, where the building’s majesty is portrayed with a simple painted backdrop, a grand staircase, and a large Christmas tree. The backdrops are reminiscent of the old-fashioned backdrops used at the Minnesota Centennial Show Boat. Although the musical Annie has taken on a life of its own, the painted backdrops take the audience back to the cartoon origins of Little Orphan Annie.
Don Darnutzer’s lighting design compliments the painted backdrops creating a night time atmosphere on 5th Avenue, as well as a dreary gray atmosphere at both Hoovertown and the orphanage. Aaron T. Chvatal’s costumes of orphan rags, staff uniforms, and billionaire suits evoking the 1930s atmosphere. When Annie first arrives at the mansion, the dominating green color in both the set and the uniforms of the household staff are well-coordinated, creating a serenity similar to that found by Dorothy at the Emerald City in the Land of Oz.
The technical elements blend well to draw the audience into the optimistic world of Annie. They all serve to enhance Annie’s fairytale existence, where she rises from a poor orphan to the beloved daughter of the richest man in the world.
Annie closes today at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN.