If you have not seen Greenwood Little Theatre’s production of “Annie,” don’t miss your last two opportunities this weekend.

When I checked the GLT website Friday afternoon, there were about 70 seats still left in the 200-seat playhouse for Saturday’s 2 p.m. matinee, but only 12 for Sunday’s 2 p.m. finale.

Every performance in the musical’s two-week run has drawn a full house or close to it. Musicals generally do, especially those with a lot of children in the cast, as this one has.

But this production is exceptionally good, thanks to a good story, a great cast and, yes, lots and lots of adorable kids.

David Dallas has done a wonderful job as director pulling this musical together. It was ambitious on his part, but also masterful, to double-cast some of the parts, including that of the title character. I only wish I had had the time to see it twice, so I could enjoy both Isabelle O’Brien and Ainsley Melton playing Annie.

On the night I went, it was Isabelle’s turn to bring sunshine to the gloom of the Great Depression.

If you think things are tough in the Delta now — with declining population, with longtime retailers being hurt by online competition, with hospitals struggling to stay solvent — they were a lot worse in most of America during the late 1920s, the period in which the musical is set. Unemployment was sky high, businesses were broke and the homeless or abandoned were plentiful.

But the underlying optimistic message of the musical is that as grim as things may seem today, there’s always hope for a better tomorrow.

It’s a message delivered in the play by a child at Christmastime. That’s a fitting parallel for a season in which Christians remember how another child, born more than 2,000 years ago, brought the greatest hope of all, hope for eternal life.

The success and response to the staging of “Annie” is another reminder of how lucky Greenwood is to have such a vibrant, long-running community theater.

The Commonwealth has a saying in our newsroom: There’s no such thing as a bad Greenwood Little Theatre play. If we’re reviewing one of its productions, we’re going to accent the positive.

Still, it’s rare that we have to do much stretching of the truth. Some plays may be more appealing thematically to some audiences than others, but by and large they are top-notch productions, about as good as community theater gets.

Connie Black is terrific in any role she ever performs, including this time as a wickedly funny, even if a bit villanous, operator of an orphanage for girls.

Paul Brown, who plays the benevolent billionaire Oliver Warbucks (though with a full head of hair), is equally versatile. Beautifully strong voice, good acting presence and a gifted musician, though he isn’t asked to play in the orchestra for this production.

Then you have those who you didn’t know could act until they show up on stage at the W.M. Whittington Jr. Playhouse. You marvel at how good they are.

Like Trey O’Brien, one of the nicest guys in Greenwood and Isabelle’s father. He plays a wheelchair-bound Franklin Delano Roosevelt with a panache that makes everyone in the house smile at how much fun he’s obviously having. This is Trey’s first time to appear in a GLT production, and he said he did it so he could build those forever family memories, not just with Isabelle but also with his other daughter, Sarah Frances, who performs in the play, too.

I’m going to get in trouble naming names. One of the problems with a production as sweeping and as well done as this is you just can’t name all who shine. There are so many.

Greenwood Little Theatre brings joy to those of us who are happy just to sit in the audience. It seems to do so much for those on stage, too.

I have watched many times how someone will get up the nerve to try out for a play, or be gently pushed into it by a parent or other adult, or talked into accepting a part by a director trying to fill a hole in the cast, and all of sudden — when the spotlights are on — they blossom, sometimes to their own surprise. The shy acquire confidence, and the gregarious learn how to channel that energy into a productive outlet. They soon become regulars, appearing in all different kinds of roles, getting more skilled in their delivery with each time out. After a while, they become one of the stars.

At the curtain call for Annie, Paul Brown and Isabelle were the last to take their bows. Then Paul stepped back, and with a sweep of his arm, directed the standing and clapping audience’s gaze to his beaming young co-star. At that moment, I felt my eyes mist over. Good acting, and good people, will do that to you.

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

(1) comment

Connieb

This is so wonderful, Tim!!! Thank you for being one of our biggest cheerleaders!!!! This theatre has been such a treasured home for so many for so many years; and, your spotlighting it in this way means so much to all of us.

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