By John Farrell
If you missed Annie at the Warner Grand Theatre within the first weekend in February there is good news and bad.
Bad because you missed a very lively professional production of the Broadway favorite with 75 performers on stage from Encore Entertainers, directed by Summer Cacciagioni and choreographed by Jennifer DiBenedetto. Four performances, Feb. 2, 3 and 5, were presented to what, at least at Friday’s performance, was an audience that nearly filled the Warner Grand.
Good news because you won’t have to miss their next production at the Warner, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, set for June 28 through July 1 at the theatre.
Encore Entertainers has had a remarkable ride since they began in 2007 in west Los Angeles: 34 musical comedies produced and other activities as well, mostly at the Centinela Center for the Arts. Now they have brought their company to the Warner Grand as well and have found not only a beautiful movie palace to present musicals in, but a whole new audience that has proven itself supportive and eager.
This was Annie with a pre-recorded score, but the very lively young cast, with the regular seven orphans doubled and tripled during dance numbers, were so enthusiastic, and so well rehearsed, that you didn’t notice. There was double and even triple casting for the four performances: Friday night there was the added interest of seeing Annie (Alexa Hodzic, lovely in red) play opposite her father, Arif Hodzic. Arif Hodzic was making his musical-comedy debut in the role of Daddy Warbucks, and if he didn’t look the part (and with his full head of hair he didn’t) it was still nice to see a father and daughter act.
You couldn’t keep track of everyone on stage even with a program, since there were so many names and so many faces (presumably the proud parents in the audience knew who was who). But there were standouts, notably Summer Cacciagioni, who directed the prodigious production and made the most of the role of Miss Hannigan Friday night. She was just the right mixture of befuddled love and simian greed, all the while keeping up with dozens of orphans on stage. Lia Abinante was a very lovely Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ lovely secretary, and David Mitrano was a standout as the radio celebrity Bert Healy.
Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s early (and perhaps best) musical is scheduled next, set for June 28 through July 1 at the Warner, and if it is as professional as Annie, they may have to open the balcony to hold the overflow.