PC Theatrics: “Annie” and More

"Tomorrow" %26mdash; and Yesterday%26hellip;

IMAGE: Theater Under The Stars' current production of Annie at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. From left: Glory Crampton as Grace Farrell, Michele Ragusa as Miss Hannigan and Sadie Sink as Annie herself. Photo by Bruce Bennett Photography.

I saw the Melbourne production of Annie with musical theater legend Anthony Warlow (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis%26eacute;rables, Jekyll %26amp; Hyde%26rsquo;s second concept album) as Oliver Warbucks back in 2001. The world went insane a few months later, and I haven%26rsquo;t made it back to Australia. But meanwhile, Warlow has been playing the billionaire again, and this time there%26rsquo;s a cast recording %26mdash; of a live performance, no less. You%26rsquo;ll have to track it down online, as the CD has not been released in the States, but it%26rsquo;s well worth the pursuit. Unfortunately, %26ldquo;Why Should I Change a Thing,%26rdquo; the song that lyricist Martin Charnin wrote specifically for Warlow back in 2000, isn%26rsquo;t here (nor was it included in subsequent productions for long, but it would%26rsquo;ve made a great bonus track). But all the traditional numbers are delivered with high energy by the whole Australian cast, including the political subtext sadly lost in the movie version via songs such as %26ldquo;We%26rsquo;d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover%26rdquo; and %26ldquo;New Deal for Christmas.%26rdquo;

Fortunately, it doesn%26rsquo;t require an eBay search to enjoy this family favorite, as Theater Under The Stars is staging Annie at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday, April 1. The orphan at the heart of it all is played by Sadie Sink, a Brenham girl who was born for the role; perhaps you saw her as little Susan Waverly in TUTS%26rsquo; production of White Christmas. Houston also has a powerful baritone playing Warbucks: George Dvorsky, a veteran of countless TUTS productions including A Wonderful Life and The Sound of Music. And his assistant, Grace Farrell? We discovered her at the Music Hall as Christine in Kopit and Yeston%26rsquo;s Phantom many years ago: Glory Crampton (she%26rsquo;s also on that CD, if you can find a copy). The dreaded Miss Hannigan is played by Michele Ragusa, a comic genius one can easily imagine playing Elizabeth in Broadway%26rsquo;s Young Frankenstein, one of her previous credits.

Despite Annie%26rsquo;s famous song, don%26rsquo;t wait too many tomorrows to purchase your tickets, as the show closes this weekend. Book your seats at 713.558.8887; tuts.com.

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Phantom Shadows on the Boardwalk

In the mood for a thrill ride? Not only is the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier opening in May, but many musical theater fans will be rediscovering Coney Island on May 29 as well. That%26rsquo;s when Andrew Lloyd Webber%26rsquo;s Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, reaches American shores via DVD and BluRay.

Those of us who follow Lloyd Webber%26rsquo;s career first experienced this musical via the concept album starring Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess (who both went on %26mdash; or rather, back in time %26mdash; to star in The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, already out on DVD and Blu-Ray). Much has changed, however, since that original recording. Immortalized on film is the revamped production staged in Melbourne, Australia, and starring Ben Lewis and Anna O%26rsquo;Byrne. Fans who saw the Fathom broadcast in cinemas back in February know that the opening no longer focuses on Madame Giry recalling what tragedies befell the Phantasia attraction at Coney Island. Instead, the Phantom himself appears alone to serenade his long-absent Christine with %26ldquo;%26rsquo;Til I Hear You Sing.%26rdquo; The rest is a whirlwind of soaring melodies and carnival-esque visuals with the Phantom characters at its core: the Phantom himself, Christine, Raoul, Madame Giry and Meg, as well as Christine%26rsquo;s son, Gustav, who was named for her long-lamented father. (Speaking of whom, did you realize that Karimloo appeared briefly as Christine%26rsquo;s father in the feature film?)

To bring either Love Never Dies or The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall into your living room, visit amazon.com. (I%26rsquo;ve spotted Phantom locally at Barnes %26amp; Noble, Best Buy and Target as well; no word yet on how wide the release of LND will be.) And if you find your appetite whetted for amusement parks, check out the aforementioned Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier at pleasure-pier.com.

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Back to the Barricades

Seeing Lloyd Webber%26rsquo;s productions filmed live on stage makes me long for the same treatment for Les Mis%26eacute;rables. Someday, perhaps... In the meantime, we can look forward to the feature film directed by Tom Hooper (The King%26rsquo;s Speech), which will star Australian powerhouses Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert. They%26rsquo;re joined by a m%26eacute;lange of Hollywood sorts and musical theater stalwarts, including Sweeney Todd film alumni Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Th%26eacute;nardiers, Amanda Seyfried (Sophie in the Mamma Mia! film) as Cosette, Samantha Barks (from the West End production and 25th anniversary concert) as Eponine, Aaron Tveit (Broadway%26rsquo;s Catch Me If You Can) as Enjolras and original Les Mis cast members Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop and Frances Ruffelle as one of the Lovely Ladies. Look for stage alumni to be peppered among the students as well. A release is tentatively set for December 2012.

Can%26rsquo;t wait? Then catch the reimagined 25th anniversary tour of Les Mis%26eacute;rables at Houston%26rsquo;s Hobby Center for the Performing Arts November 6 through 11, as part of the Gexa Broadway series. Scenic design, which incorporates Victor Hugo's own moody artwork, is reminiscent of what we saw in the stellar production staged locally by TUTS in 2009. For tickets, visit houston.broadway.com/shows/les-miserables-baa/.

Don't want to wait that long? The tour is also stopping at Austin%26rsquo;s Bass Concert Hall, May 29 through June 3. Plan your trip at austin.broadway.com. Or be a real fan and follow up your movie viewing with a road trip to Dallas to catch the tour again at the AT%26amp;T Performing Arts Center December 20 through January 1, as part of the 2012%26ndash;2013 Lexus Broadway Series Season. Tickets are going fast, so visit attpac.org soon to secure your seats. (There's already talk of restricted-view seats still being available for sold-out performances at the Dallas venue, so don't delay.)

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Over There %26hellip;

I%26rsquo;m jealous. While we%26rsquo;ll be able to buy Steven Spielberg%26rsquo;s War Horse on BluRay and DVD April 3, Houston may have a long wait before we can see the original stage production. Instead, the Tony Award winner gallops into Dallas via the aforementioned 2012%26ndash;2013 Lexus Broadway Series Season September 12 through 23. While I%26rsquo;m sure the film is brilliant %26mdash; somehow I never made it to the cinema over the holidays %26mdash; what I really want to see are the award-winning puppets. Talk about a one-time Breyer collector%26rsquo;s dream... To saddle up for a Dallas trek, you%26rsquo;ll need to buy season tickets right now. Or wait for individual ticket sales later in the year. For info, visit attpac.org.

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Much Ado About %26hellip; Guitar Hero?

I was thrilled to hear that Brian D%26rsquo;Arcy James would be singing on this week%26rsquo;s episode of Smash, the NBC-TV series about producing a musical about Marilyn Monroe. Unfortunately, his number ended up being little more than a tease for fans who know his work, with D%26rsquo;Arcy James hamming it up with a video game. Not sure where you've seen him before? Perhaps it%26rsquo;s because his face was buried under green prosthetics as everyone%26rsquo;s favorite ogre in Shrek: The Musical. It%26rsquo;s his powerful voice you hear on the original cast recording. You might also remember his appearance on the Rosie O%26rsquo;Donnell Show many years ago, performing %26ldquo;Fare-Thee-Well%26rdquo; as the stoker Frederick Barrett in Maury Yeston%26rsquo;s tuneful Titanic. While D%26rsquo;Arcy James%26rsquo; Smash character may not frequent his wife%26rsquo;s musical theater world, we can only hope for a future dream sequence that will utilize his voice more fully.

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No Anklets Required Here

Are you a fan of the USA Network%26rsquo;s popular White Collar series? If so, you%26rsquo;ll want to catch Glee on FOX Tuesday, April 10, when WC star Matt Bomer (we know him best as conman Neal Caffrey) guest-stars as the brother of series regular Blaine (Darren Criss) and joins him for some Duran Duran tunes. Trivia: Did you know that Bomer is a native of Spring, Texas?


Watch here for future updates about the performing arts %26mdash; locally and around the world.

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