Just another WordPress.com weblog
Children have little to no filter, especially in 2015. They offer their opinion loud and often. They make great critics due to their honesty in what they like or dislike. So when I sat down at the 11am matinee to watch the new Annie starring an ethnically diverse cast, (it IS set in NY after all) I was ready for the audible play by play from kids, yelling, dancing around, screaming- the usual.
How happy I was to experience none of that. You could have heard a pin drop in the cinema -even over the loud, over produced blaring music that is movie musical orchestration today. The kids were enraptured, transfixed even from start to finish. No bathroom runs, no yelling for mommy,these kids were pulled into Quvenzhané Wallis and her quality of realness that has yet to be seen in any onscreen Annie portrayed. This isn’t a knock on Aileen Quinn, who played the role previously with musical theatre pluck and Dorothy bright wide eyes. Her doe eyed, innocence was perfect for a musical set in 1933 that includes characters Franklin Delano Roosevelt and delightful racist stereotypes like Punjab the exotic, magic man from India- (see magical negro trope).
Thankfully this Annie is set today-2014. She’s smarter, wiser and the whole musical has a different aesthetic. A foster kid, (as she likes to be called in the script, no little orphan Annie here) today is far too cynical to say “leapin lizards” ok? However everyone still hopes to be loved and wanted. When Wallis sings the song, Maybe, there were a lot of sniffles in the audience. Quvenzhané as Annie has that spunky tough girl exterior children who have been knocked around by the system get. I was a residential counselor in a group home for a bit. I know that tough kid act, it’s emotional armor they develop to get used to life constantly kicking them. It is hard to get through their outer shell. Even harder for the kids to let you in. Vulnerability is a liability in a group home. The talented actress lets us into this world quickly with a glance. We instantly get the situation she is in, and that this Annie is no comic strip.
Wallis is able to melt your heart when she wants to, when her Annie lets us the audience in, via Oliver Stacks. Jamie Foxx plays the previously named Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks with style, jokes that land well and dulcet tones of R&B cream. Daddy Warbucks never looked or sounded this rich children, in more ways then one.
Louder is better it seems for every movie musical I see these days. A technical problem with the film is that the music at times is extremely loud to the point of annoyance. This certainly isn’t an Annie problem, it’s an industry problem, all movie musicals I have seen since Chicago (which started the recent loud, auto tuned, movie musical trend to my recollection) have been ear drum shattering loud. Of course none of the children I was seated next to were covering their ears, so it could just be the fact I’m turning 35 next week and have midlife hearing syndrome.
The script is tighter than the stage show or 1982 film version. Superfluous characters are cut out. There aren’t dozens of servants in the employ of Stacks here to serve just for production numbers. Miss. Hannigan (realistically played by winking Diaz) doesn’t conveniently have a brother with a girlfriend to pass as Annie’s parents, etc. Also when people sing, it is acknowledged.
Overall it is a joy, the new songs and changes to others by Sia work well in some places and not so well in others but the auditorium of children were uber quiet for the entire film and burst into applause when it ended. I was wiping away a small tear at the end with a marching band behind Wallis, Foxx, Byrne, and Diaz singing Tomorrow. The present all white Into the Woods aside, the future of musical theatre I hope is for everyone.
This Annie is for everyone to enjoy. Inclusion matters folks. Seeing people of color in this old chestnut of a musical put it into a new context that made the story fresh, and mean more for the audience I believe. I do indeed hope 2015 brings a tomorrow of inclusion, diversity and hope with action. Take your kids to see Annie. Take a friend to see Annie. Just take yourself like I did, you will be glad you did.