Cinnabar’s Young Repertory Company and their amazing “Annie,” through Sunday, December 15, 2013
In case you haven’t heard, Cinnabar Theater’s Young Repertory Theater has the holiday musical that everyone north of the Golden Gate is buzzing about—Annie. Featuring local youth, who sing and act with gusto, the superb show is delightfully staged in Cinnabar’s intimate hill top theater just down the road from historic Petaluma. The heartwarming musical sold out within hours of being announced and Cinnabar’s new Executive Director, Terence Keane, reports they’ve been hounded like crazy for tickets. That’s no surprise as all of Cinnabar’s performances in their 41st season, both professional and youth, have been slam-dunks—from The Pavilion to La Cage Aux Folles in their professional company, to Rent, from their youth corp.
I was lucky enough to buy a ticket to Thursday’s performance, added earlier this week, and it was so worth the extra effort. From the moment I entered the cozy theater and saw rows of kids perched in the front rows awaiting the show, my heart leapt…the energetic vibe was palpable. No doubt part of their enthusiasm was due to being out late on a school night and the super-sized brownies and rice crispie treats available in the lounge. Once the show began though, they were quiet as mice, discovering the thrill of theater and immersing themselves in the original 3-D, high-definition style of storytelling. Kudos Cinnabar!
Set in the 1930s, during the gloom of the Great Depression, Annie is a story of hope and optimism that was first staged in 1977 and went on to become one the world’s most beloved family musicals. Based on Thomas Meehan’s book, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, Cinnabar’s production is under the helm of directors Dezi Gallegos and Brain Bryson with music direction by Sandy and Richard Riccardi and Choreography by Nancy Rush. Cinnabar’s entire youth rep program is in the capable hands of Nathan Cummings who has plenty to be proud of—Petaluma may be far from Broadway but, thanks to the training they receive at Cinnabar, some of them may be Broadway bound.
Annie, a true spuntress, is a whip-smart orphan who is on a mission to find her birth parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan. Despite her loneliness, Annie is all light and sunshine, delivering positivity and kindness to everyone she encounters. When Annie meets the industrious billionaire, Mr. Warbucks, she helps him realize that having all the money in the world means nothing unless you have someone to share your life with. Of course, when big money is involved there are always a few plot twists, and Annie deliver them in spades, along with a blossoming love story.
While each young actor brings something special to Cinnabar’s production, I was bowled over by thirteen-year-old Laura Sandoval who played Annie on Thursday. There are two casts and Sandoval is part of the “Leapin’ Lizards” cast and splits the lead with Lucy London, part of the “Oh Boy cast.” It was obvious from Sandoval’s first solo, “Tomorrow”—that famous sing-when-you-are-down-in-the-dumps tune, that she had the voice and acting talent and charisma sufficient to anchor this core of young performers. As her infectious optimism spread, and the song caught on to include more and more of her fellow tousled orphans on stage, it was clear that these kids had really worked hard on this production. Half of the fun though is in watching them move around the stage in Diana Banas’ rag-a-muffin orphan costumes attempting to stay in sync and in tune at the same time. “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” was delightful. Cast stand-outs were Marvin Roca as the tycoon Warbucks, Maryanne Boas as FDR, Bashya Terronez as the orphanage supervisor, Miss Hannigan, and Ian Purcell, as Rooster, Miss Hannigan’s no-good brother and Samantha Royall as Grace, Mr. Warbuck’s kind-hearted secretary. And I wouldn’t be ARThound if I didn’t mention the adorable Grace Miguel as the stray dog, adopted by Annie.
You know a performance has worked its magic when the people leave humming the last tune they heard and are polite to each other as they all try to exit Cinnabar’s rubric parking lot at the same time. Annie’s message bears repeating again and again…families come in all shapes and sizes and there’s always hope for brighter days ahead!
More about Cinnabar’s Young Rep Theater: Founded in 1983, Cinnabar Theater’s Young Repertory Theater is Sonoma County’s largest and longest-running program for youth in the performing arts, serving hundreds of students annually from Sonoma County and beyond. In addition to several fully-staged youth productions each year, Young Rep includes year-round classes and summer camps, adult choruses and concerts as well as opportunities for students to perform in Cinnabar’s professional season. Young Rep is open to youngsters aged 4-18, who benefit from the instruction provided by working theater professionals. No child is turned away due to inability to pay.
Details: Annie runs through Sunday, December 15, 2013. The show is completely sold-out. Best chance for tickets is to show up 30 minutes before the performance and wait for no-shows or audience members selling tickets. Remaining performances: Dec 13 & 14th at 7:30 PM and Dec 15th at 2 PM. For more information, visit www.cinnabartheater.org, or call 707.763-8920 from Monday through Friday between 10 AM and 3 PM. All seating is general admission and the theatre opens about 30 minutes prior to each performance.
Cinnabar Theater is located 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, at the intersection with Skillman Lane, Petaluma, CA 94952.
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