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Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, NJ, November 26, 2017
Reviewed by Chip Deffaa for Cabaret Scenes
Erin Mackey, Cassidy Pry, Christopher Sieber

The production of Annie, directed by Mark S. Hoebee, that Paper Mill Playhouse is currently presenting (through December 31, 2017) just might be the most satisfying production of Annie I’ve ever seen. I’ve enjoyed any number of good productions of this musical over the years. I have particularly warm memories of the original 1977 Broadway production with Andrea McArdle and Dorothy Loudon—both first-rate—and also the lively 1997 Broadway revival that starred Nell Carter (who was tremendous in her her own way—but she so overshadowed everyone else that I felt I was watching Nell Carter and Co. rather than Annie).   

I liked almost everything about this new production at Paper Mill—the tone, the humor, the heart, the pacing. Hoebee had all of the right ingredients, and all were  properly balanced.

The show really worked, from first scene to last.

And Beowulf Boritt’s settings were far more intriguing than those in the original Broadway production.


Beth Leavel was a brilliant Miss Hannigan. She caught every laugh from her first entrance. I can’t think of anyone working today who’d be better for the role. (And Leon Dobkowski costumed her with wondrous flair.) Leavel won the Tony Award for her rich portrayal in the 2006-2007 Broadway musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. But—as sometimes happens in show business—she hasn’t found another part nearly as “right” for her as that part was in the decade since The Drowsy Chaperone closed. She made the most of a small supporting role in the musical Bandstand. She was, for me, the best element in that musical, but there was only so much that could be done with that small role.
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Her comic gifts are well displayed as Miss Hannigan.
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Christopher Sieber—whom I’ve enjoyed in many Broadway shows, from Triumph of Love to Shrek to La Cage aux Folles—makes an ideal Daddy Warbucks. The singing is strong and sure; the acting is heartfelt. He’s my favorite Daddy Warbucks to date. 
And I don’t know where they found Cassidy Pry, the little girl (new to me) playing Annie at the performance I attended (opening night). But she’s terrific. Almost every line reading is exactly right—the spirit, the pluck, the gumption. She is Annie. (The role, I might add, is double-cast: Pry alternates in the role with Peyton Ella, whom I had the pleasure of seeing in Annie at Westchester Broadway Theater last summer. I enjoyed her very much, too.) And every one of the orphans is well cast. The kids charm individually and collectively. Erin Mackey is an appealing Grace Farrell. I was won over by this production from the start. 
The score, by Charles Strouse (music) and Martin Charnin (lyrics), and the book by Thomas Meehan are irresistible. It’s an excellent family musical—equally satisfying for adults and kids. We don’t get many of these anymore. 

Chip Deffaa

Chip Deffaa is the author of 16 published plays and eight published books, and the producer of 24 albums. For 18 years he covered entertainment, including music and theater, for The New York Post. In his youth, he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He is a graduate of Princeton University and a trustee of the Princeton "Tiger" magazine. He wrote and directed such Off-Broadway successes as "George M. Cohan Tonight!" and "One Night with Fanny Brice." His shows have been performed everywhere from London to Edinburgh to Seoul. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, NARAS, and ASCAP. He’s won the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award, the IRNE Award, and a New Jersey Press Association Award. Please visit: