Theatre Arlington seems to be trying to save you the price of an airline ticket with its current production of the inexplicably popular show Annie.
That 1977 musical with curly red hair is enjoying a revival on Broadway. But if you want to see a really first-rate production of this show, you don't need to go that far. The version currently up on the Great White Way probably has more bells and whistles, but it is hard to believe it would give you more bang for your buck than the outstanding production in Arlington.
Full disclosure here: I have to confess that there are a few musicals that I don't much care for, and I really hate the hopelessly dated tub of treacle called Annie.
But not this production.
There are hardly any performances here that fail to make the most of the material. Jenny Thurman is particularly good as the detestable Miss Hannigan, the drunken hag who runs the orphanage-sweat shop that Annie initially calls home. Thurman plays the vileness of her character without flinching and sings wonderfully (as she always does).
Neil Mowles, the only Equity player in the cast, is a smooth Daddy Warbucks, whether he is dealing with dialogue or lyrics. Morgan Mabry Mason takes good care of Grace Ferrell, Warbucks' smitten personal assistant, singing the role as well as she plays it. And director Melanie Mason has done an excellent job of preparing the younger members of the cast, who keep pace with the grown-ups quite well.
But if there is any one thing that sets this production apart from most, it is Laura West Strawser's clever and tasteful choreography. And nearly all of her moves are as well-executed as they are well-planned. Her contributions are a perfect match for the overall pace and tone maintained so artfully by Melanie Mason.
This production is presented with a recorded score, but the singing is so good that it compensates for that generic aspect.
So I still do not understand the enduring appeal of this show's Depression-era jokes, saccharine plotline and mostly ordinary show tunes. But this production sparkles so brightly that, unlike Annie, I did not once wish for it to be tomorrow.