'Annie' lights up stage at Town Hall

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Pretend it is December 1933 — and enjoy Town Hall Arts Center's holiday treat for the community.

Harold Gray's popular Depression-era comic strip about a spunky little orphan with red hair gained a new life in 1977 when Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin created a musical called “Annie.” It initially ran in New York for six years and has surfaced regularly ever since. It is Town Hall's choice for the 2013 holiday season and tickets are flying out the door for the show, which opened Nov. 15.

Veteran director Bob Wells has again brought his special skills to producing “Annie” on Town Hall's small stage. Working with those little girls has been a joy, he said backstage before the opening night performance — with a giant grin lighting up his face.

With its well-crafted production, positive vibes, wacky characters, cute kids, music and dance — and even a Christmas party at the end — it's an ideal show for family audiences.

Sidney Fairbairn, a sixth-grader at West Middle School, debuts at Town Hall in the Annie role and expert comic LuAnn Buckstein was born to play the tipsy Miss Hannigan. Annie's young fellow orphans at the New York City Municipal Orphanage bring considerable stage presence, strong singing voices and experience to the story: Regan Fenske, Rebecca Hyde, Serena Kopf, Lexi Lubotsky and Jenna Paige Smith.

Daniel Langhoff shaved his head and brought his warm voice to Town Hall to play corporate magnate Daddy Warbucks. Cory Wendling and Taylor Nicole Young are appropriately sleazy as Hannigan's brother Rooster and his lady friend Lily. Rebekah Ortiz is calm and lovely as Warbucks' secretary, who comes to the orphanage to “check out” an orphan for Christmas.

One also meets FDR and his Cabinet, as well as Warbuck's staff and miscellaneous NYC Hooverville inhabitants (i.e. homeless). Some fast costume changes are in order throughout.

And of course, there's furry star Sandy, performed with a bit of uncertainty on opening night by Turbo Adams, a sweet-looking golden retriever who was called in to substitute. We feel sure he will soon be more comfortable in his role, given the steady supply of treats Annie has in her pocket.

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