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Hope Abounds in Market Theatre’s Rambunctious ‘Annie’

By Paul Hyde/Anderson Observer

Hope and optimism are in abundant supply in the Market Theatre Company’s rambunctious “Annie.”

Charles Strouse’s 1976 show about an orphan who wants to find a loving home is a perfect treat for the Caption: The Market Theatre Company's "Annie" continues through Dec. 16. Photo Credit: Escobar Photography.Christmas season. It’s sweet, disarming and cheery.

Look a little deeper and you’ll find a great American musical with heart and decency, recalling a time – specifically the Great Depression – when Americans stuck together through thick and thin, looking out for each other.

That’s a welcome message at Christmastime and anytime.

Director Jessie Davis and choreographer Ryan Hewitt deliver an energetic, high-spirited production.

Those virtues are evident early in the show when the young residents of the Municipal Girls Orphanage attack the number “Hard Knock Life,” generating a satisfying ruckus with their foot stamping and vocal oomph.

This is a staging with gusto, and it’s a big cast, with more than 15 orphans.

Davis, the director, nimbly negotiates the Market Theatre’s challenging space, bringing clarity and momentum to the proceedings.

Daisy Bates is a spunky Annie with a sparkling smile and winning stage presence.

Kyle Caudell is a pleasingly gruff Oliver Warbucks who later exhibits a heart of gold and an appealing baritone.

Heather Mutolo, a standout, plays a fierce Miss Hannigan, the drunken matron of the orphanage, the harridan you love to hate. In the comic world of “Annie,” however, even the villains are not all that nasty. Mutolo brings a powerful voice to songs such as “Little Girls.”

Noah Austin and Victoria Cox are the two zesty schemers, Rooster and Lily St. Regis.

Kyle Heaten is adorable as the youngest orphan, Molly.

Ben Otto Sunderman is a likeable, forthright Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s scenes are played for laughs but they’re a reminder of a president who preached optimism, invested in people and brought Americans together. Those scenes gain added resonance in light of today’s divided political climate.

Hal Hunsinger is the chipper radio host Bert Healy.

Martha Upper and Carl Whitman offer solid contributions as, respectively, Warbucks’ secretary Grace and butler Drake.

The dog playing Sandy was uncredited in the program, but he (she?) did what Sandy usually does in “Annie” – completely steal the scene.

Michael Benitez does a good job with the musical preparation.

The entire ensemble makes a splendid sound in the relatively small Market Theatre. One caveat: At times, the cast could articulate Martin Charnin’s superb lyrics a bit more crisply.

This lively “Annie” continues through Dec.16. For tickets, call 864-729-2999 or visit the website

Paul Hyde, a veteran Upstate journalist, writes about the arts for the Anderson Observer. Write to him at Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

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