Chantilly High School
“You’re never fully dressed without a smile!” Falls Church High School’s heartwarming rendition of Annie invites everyone to enjoy the ups and downs of finding family in those around you.
Written by Thomas Meehan, Annie premiered in 1976 at the Goodspeed Opera House and went on to win numerous Tony awards. Adapted from a 1924 comic strip, the orphan Annie is trapped at the orphanage and determined to find her parents, but in a twist of fate ends up spending the holidays with the billionaire, Mr. Warbucks. Can he help Annie find her parents, and more importantly… home?
The lights slowly rose on several disheveled beds as the leading actress stepped onstage. With charisma, Ellie Whitfield brought a childlike wonder to every scene as Annie. Whether braving the cold streets of New York City or inspiring Franklin D. Roosevelt, Whitfield was a lively presence, drawing eyes to her ever-present optimism even when all hope seemed to be lost. Luckily, Annie found a new companion in Mr. Warbucks, played by Colt Armstrong. He may seem like a grumpy old man, but his stoicism only enriched his tender moments with Annie. Colt Armstrong’s calm presence was the perfect contrast to Whitfield’s bubbly persona, as he commanded the stage with a strong booming voice and beautifully navigated poignant songs.
Amidst all the cheerfulness, Quinn Lopez portrayed Miss Aggie Hannigan with a chilling blend of wicked comedy. With a large reputation to uphold, Lopez effortlessly combined sarcasm and a fiery facade for a fresh take on a well-known antagonist. Similarly, Lam Vu played Rooster with impeccable comedic timing along with his partner in crime Dara Kearney, as Lily St. Regis. As the trio cooked up an outrageous scheme, Lopez, Vu, and Kearney flamboyantly executed their shenanigans, continually stealing the spotlight with their limited time together.
A show of this caliber required incredible attention to detail, and this production did not disappoint. Throughout the show, the stage crew, composed of Stephanie Mejia Ramos, Ali Lieberman, and the Running crew, seamlessly transitioned through a myriad of locations, brilliantly highlighted in the effectiveness of the set, built by Max Purtill, Leslie Fon, and the Set crew. From the two moving staircases to the detachable railings, the simplicity of the set successfully contrasted the run-down orphanage and the pristine Warbucks’ household. The costumes, curated by Isabelle Paparella, Sophie Veas, Sydney Grimard, and Aaron Seide, further enhanced the Great Depression time period, from the patched-up orphan dresses to the crisp business suits. There’s no denying the entire show was visually beautiful; however, the attention to detail truly made the show soar.
As the curtains closed, you couldn’t help but exclaim, “Oh Boy!” Falls Church High School’s delightful production of Annie proved that family could come from the most unlikely places.
Chantilly High School
Sometimes the sparkling lights of a city at night shine a path towards hope, love, and most importantly, a new home. The dazzling colors of New York City glittered brilliantly on the stage of Falls Church High School in its heartwarming production of Annie.
The story of little orphan Annie has gone through many iterations since its creation in 1885. The much-loved comic version of the 1930s inspired the well-known 1970s musical, which was adapted by Martin Charnin, Charles Strouse and Thomas Meehan. It tells the story of Annie, a young orphan desperate to get away from her awful orphanage. When opportunity presents itself in the form of one of the richest men in New York, she finds herself whisked away to a land of wealth and comfort but finds the brightest treasure in a new sense of family and belonging.
Ellie Whitfield beamed a playful spirit as Annie, marching through the show with optimistic confidence. Whitfield portrayed Annie’s juvenile nature and can-do attitude that left other characters no choice but to follow her lead. Whitfield’s voice shone through the dark theater like the sun in “Tomorrow” with gorgeous vibrato and a childlike tone that consistently conveyed Annie’s youth. She worked expertly with her furry castmate, Whimsy Cheddarbean, who played Sandy, incorporating canine commands into her character motions. Balancing out Annie’s adolescence was the mature and stoic Colt Armstrong as Oliver Warbucks. Armstrong performed thoughtfully, embracing the subtleties of a scene such as the shaking of his hands when he was nervous or the flat tone of his voice when he was speaking on the phone. He morphed Warbucks throughout the show, transforming from a closed-off businessman to a loving new father, tugging at heartstrings in his moments with Whitfield. Armstrong's voice was resonant and silky, with a carefulness that reflected the sophistication of Warbucks.
The story of Annie would be incomplete without its classic villains. Miss Hannigan, her brother, Rooster, and his girlfriend, Lily St. Regis, were a treacherous trio. Quinn Lopez as the spiteful orphanage mother, Miss Hannigan, amusingly stumbled around the stage with her flask, layering her rich voice with disdain and an impressive New York accent. Lam Vu as the wily Rooster and Dara Kearney as the giggly Lily St. Regis owned their iniquitous personalities with a passion that made them hilarious to watch. The trio’s farcically languid performance in “Easy Street” made the marvelous number a memorable one.
The costumes team, Isabelle Paparella, Sophie Veas, Sydney Grimard and Aaron Seide, brought the youth of the show to life, utilizing a striking array of hues. Each ensemble had cohesive costumes varying slightly to reveal individual personality. The contrast between the patchwork orphan clothes with the tailored, sharp look of Warbucks’ residents exhibited the dynamism of the show. The special effects heads, McKenna Cobb and Justin Chenh, and the set leads, Max Purtill and Leslie Fon, worked exceptionally well together to create scenes with both physical pieces and projections. The physical aspects such as a balcony with functional doors allowed actors to play within the tangible world, while projections enabled the setting to change quickly and provided elements which expanded beyond the limitations of a theater.
As the spotlight on Falls Church High School’s stage lit up, so did the city of New York. Annie was an energetic adventure to find the meaning of family and a luminous message to never give up hope.