It’s getting more and more difficult to shop for my growing niece, Nat. She has outgrown Barbies and Princesses, and I am sure she would have preferred electronics, something I abhor seeing on a pre-teen. So this year, I decided to buy her an experience – a night at the musical.
MBS is showing Annie The Musical, which coincides with my German niece’s visit, a perfect musical for a ten-year-old.
I first saw Annie on TV when I was a child and can vaguely remember the story. Of course, the theme song, Tomorrow, is played often on TV and radio and I know it by heart. My sister though was concerned that her daughter may not like it and thus waste the expensive ticket. Surprisingly, Nat agreed on seeing the show rather than have me buy her something. (I am so proud of her choice.)
The review in the local press thought the musical too simplistic, more believable to a naive young child than a cynical adult. I begged to differ.
The theatre was only about 80% full on that Thursday evening we attended. Many of the more expensive seats in front of us were empty. Our tickets, at above $100 each only put us in the middle of the hall. Although we could see the figures, we couldn’t make out the expressions.
The year is 1933 in New York City. The depression has left many people without work, and war is looming in Europe. Annie, an eleven-year-old girl was left at the orphanage by her parents in 1922. All she has left from her parents are a note and a locket. The matron of the orphanage, Mrs Hannigan, is a cruel drunk and man-starved. Annie decides to run away to look for her parents. She meets many homeless people and taught them to see the brighter side of things. She is brought back to the orphanage by the police. Luckily, she gets invited by a wealthy man Mr Warbucks to spend Christmas at his house. They develop a close relationship and Mr Warbucks decides to help Annie find her parents by giving a reward. This attracts many crooks claiming to be Annie’s parents but in the end, they discover that Annie’s parents are dead and Mr Warbucks then decides to adopt Annie.
The Broadway show is evident from the clever stage setting. A row of NYC terrace houses provides the screen for stage change, which was aplenty – from the orphanage, to the Warbucks mansion, and even to the Oval Room at the White House.
The little girl (there were three rotating) who acted that night was enthusiastic and a perfect Annie. Mrs Hannigan provided the laughs but her speeches could have been clearer. In fact, the audience would have benefitted from having subtitles as some mumblings were lost to us.
The feel good ending and how everything just falls perfectly into place are perhaps what made this show disagreeable with the Straits’ Times Life! reviewer. It’s somehow more popular (perhaps artistic) nowadays for theatre shows (or movies for that matter) to end with ambiguity or a sad ending.
I was just glad for the feel-good ending. After all, this is a show about optimism. It was also the perfect show for Nat, as she, like many kids, complains of what she lacks instead of appreciating what she has. Comparing material stuff and trying to keep up with the Jones is tiring and I hope Annie has shown her how to appreciate what she has, and even at times to appreciate what she lacks.
Homeless Adult : All I have are empty pockets.
Annie: At least you have pockets.
Adult: My hands are freezing.
Annie: That’s why your pockets are empty, for your hands.
Adult: I only have newspapers instead of blankets…
Annie: You can read in bed…
For me, being reminded of the song ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow…’ makes that night spent with my sister and niece worthwhile.