Annie has Everyone Singing in their Count Basie Seats
Phoenix Productions puts on a standout performance of the classic at Count Basie Theatre.
The seats at the Count Basie were jam packed with theater lovers both young and old on Saturday night, all eager to see the Phoenix Productions performance of the adored classic Annie.
The mood was joyful, with people of all ages waiting to sing along to well known classics such as “Tomorrow” and “Hard Knock Life.”
The play was presented by Phoenix Productions, a community theater company based in Red Bank.
Phoenix Productions specializes in producing high quality Broadway revivals at a modest cost so that families can attend and introduce children to the theater. It also allows performers from all over a chance to work in a full scale production at a renowned theater.
The expert singing and engaging performances by the cast of Annie made it easy to forget that the Count Basie is firmly planted in Red Bank, and that Broadway is miles away.
From the first notes of “Hard Knock Life,” the audience could feel the powerful emotion that radiated from the cast of orphans, and they were immediately captivated.
Carly Nelson, playing the lead role of Annie, brought the essential ingredients of her character - a combination of tough and sweet - to the stage with the ease of a well seasoned professional.
Nelson was a delight to watch as she brought the innocence and emotion of Annie to life. She sang with the genuine emotion of a young girl feeling lost and out of place in a big world.
Nelson and the entire cast of orphans sang flawlessly on “Hard Knock Life,” making it one of the most memorable songs of the night. It was during this performance that the audience also fell in love with young Molly, played by Ruby Riggio. They smiled and laughed each time she jumped to the front of the stage and belted out a commanding note.
Lauren J. Cooke brought the deviance and depravity of Miss Hannigan effortlessly to life.
Her voice shined on “Little Girls,” but her standout performance was on the reprise of “Easy Street,” which was performed with fellow cast members Joe Caruso (Rooster) and Jennifer Townsend (Lily). The combination of catchy tunes and dancing elicited a huge round of applause from the audience.
Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks played by Tom Frascatore, and Grace Farrell played by Jessica Lopez, were a delight to watch on the stage. They naturally embodied the warmth and comfort that was vital to their characters.
The entire cast of Annie was made up of extremely talented singers and actors from throughout New Jersey. They lit up the stage during ensemble pieces such as “Hooverville,” and “You Won’t be an Orphan for Long.” They created a magic onstage that would rival any production on Broadway.
“This was a tremendous performance,” commented Evelyn Lee of Eatontown. “I’m going to be singing these songs long after I leave the theater tonight,” she added.
Renee Mychelle from Red Bank brought her young nieces to see the show, hoping they’d fall in love with the story the way she had when she was their age.
“It’s such a classic story of hope,” Mychelle commented. “It’s great that such a great Broadway classic is being offered so close to home.”
Didn’t get to catch this weekend’s performance? Lucky for you there’s always a second chance in life. The phenomenal performance of Annie will be at the Count Basie Friday through Sunday. Check out http://www.countbasietheatre.org/ for show times and tickets.