Chaffin’s Dinner Barn Theatre, at 8204 Highway 100 in Nashville, has just opened “Annie,” a most delightful toe-tapping summer musical.
The show makes for a great evening’s entertainment. And last week, as wide-eyed children watched the very talented cast sing and dance, it also was clear that it makes for a wonderful family outing, complete with a delicious buffet dinner and desserts crammed with choices to please any age.
The Tony Award-winning musical is based on the world-famous comic strip about a cute, little red-headed orphan girl — Annie — and her dog, Sandy. It was created in 1924 by Harold Gray. Grey was orphaned as a teenager when both his parents died and he said he learned firsthand the qualities that he found he passed on to Annie.
Director Joy Tilley Perryman skillfully put together the production of “Annie” along with her fantastic production staff, including music director Rolle Mains and choreographer Lauri Dismuke.
Performed on Chaffin’s theater in the round, it was hard to believe how well it adapts to the smaller theater. Not only does the show fit nicely, but the size of the stage brings a greater warmth to the production, allowing the audience a chance, by closeness of distance and by emotion, to truly get to know these delightful characters.
The voices are excellent. Annie, stunningly played by young Ava Rivera, whose “Tomorrow” rang loud and clear as a bell, has an amazing future ahead of her.
The children are double cast, playing only on every other night, Rivera was Annie on the night I saw the show.
The Bugsley Berkley-styled dance numbers are energetic and outrageous, especially in “Easy Street.” Miss Hannigan, the evil head of the orphanage, was played delightfully by Jenny Norris. Her really bad brother, the devilish Rooster, was played perfectly by Curtis LeMoine, (Curtis was a standout as Asher, in Studio Tenn’s, “Joseph and the Amazing Dreamcoat”). His very funny, dumb-blonde girlfriend, Miss Lily St. Regis, played by Christina Candilora, brought down the house as they danced “Easy Street” with moves something similar to a perky, very funky chicken dance.
Daddy Warbucks, the billionaire who Annie comes to hope will be her adopted father, is wonderfully played by Galen Fott. His private secretary (and getting to be even closer friend because of Annie), Ms. Grace Farrell, is played charmingly by Natalie Rankin. The two, along with Annie and seemingly half of New York, offer a great production number celebrating New York City in “N.Y.C.”
The orphans are great, the dog is an adorable ham and even President Roosevelt is a great ringer. The ensemble is extremely talented and the set magically comes out of the ceiling with actors.
It was a lovely evening, with a great dinner. So no indigestion here, just a song you can't get out of your head. The sun will come out ... tomorrow."
Special note: On Aug. 20, Chaffin’s Barn will present “Showdown at the Rundown Saloon,” a murder mystery with prizes and buffet dinner as a benefit for The Make a Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee.