Peoria Players continues their 2011-2012 season with the perennial favorite, "Annie".
While this show is done a bit too frequently by amateur groups, it nevertheless has great value in that it offers a lot of young people what may well be their first theater experience.
That experience may be onstage or as an audience member.
The Peoria Players' production that opened on Friday is a wildly uneven presentation.
Maddy Hoskins is positively charming in the title role. She has the voice, the moves, and the stage presence to make it work.
All of the other orphans are delightful as well. Their singing, dancing, and acting are right on target.
"Its A Hard-knock Life" is one of the highlights of the show.
Another highlight was Bryan Blanks' performance as Rooster. I have seen Mr. Blanks in this role before (I believe at Eastlight) and he honed it even better here for a truly professional quality performance.
Dave Schick was excellent as Daddy Warbucks, and Anne Gonzalez' Grace Farrell was equally good.
While Cheryl Dawn Koenig was good as Miss Hannigan, her performance was marred by a bad microphone - a constant problem at this theater.
While the choreography was good in the orphan numbers and in "Easy Street", it was virtually non-existent in some of the other numbers.
"Hooverville" was particularly awful with the actors flailing aimlessly about the stage.
But the fatal flaw for this production was the orchestration.
Now in my last Peoria Players review, when I criticized the direction, I received the most hate mail ever for a review.
So get your poison pens ready....
A musical requires good music, and this was the absolute worst orchestration I have ever heard in a production above high school level.
Perhaps there were grade school kids down in the pit, I don't know. It certainly sounded like children learning to play without a conductor present.
Or perhaps the conductor was Harold Hill, relying on his "think system".
Indeed, the orchestra threw a couple numbers into chaos when the singers did not know what to do with sudden unpredictable changes in tempo.
If Players cannot secure a better orchestra or musical director than this, then please, please consider professionally recorded music for your next musical!
Anyway, go see this show for the orphans.
They sing loud enough to drown out the orchestra.
"Annie" runs through November 20th at the theater in Lakeview Park.