STAGE REVIEWS : REGIONAL REP STAGES AN INFECTIOUS 'ANNIE'

Wearing a most contagious smile, the Regional Repertory Theatre's "Annie" is all dressed up and knows exactly where it wants to go. The charms of this big old-fashioned Broadway musical work again and again in this warm, delightful production.

Directors Howard Mango and Denise Dell Reiss certainly haven't tried anything new in this presentation of the adventures of the comic strip orphan who made the Depression a little less depressing. And one could have a quibble about a few flaws in the production, but who cares when a show has this much heart? Yes, the continuity is a bit choppy, the choreography is a bit busy and the satiric edge could be sharper--but none of that really matters.

What does matter is that Mango, Reiss and their terrific cast demonstrate some skillful showmanship and their unabashed affection for the material. The gags are older than Gotham, but here they are played out with style, and the sentimentality of the story is deftly managed so as to enhance the sweetness without overdoing it.

Ten-year-old Heather Redfern, as Annie, sets the tone with an expressive, sincere performance. Her scenes with Duane Thomas, who plays Warbucks, have a pleasing tenderness. Thomas' Warbucks is brash yet endearing, and he brings amusing conviction to the character's bluster. Adriane Gabrielle Coros is a salacious Miss Hannigan, emphasizing the burlesque side of the role of the orphanage's headmistress. Valerie Speaks is properly glamorous as Grace Farrell, Warbucks' girl Friday. As Miss Hannigan's sleazy brother Rooster, William Lett is the quintessential con man. Not only does he capture the restless body language of the lifelong criminal, he also proves a sensational song-and-dance man in the "Easy Street" number.

The six orphans perform rousingly, making a very convincing band of ragamuffins.

Gil Morales' set manages to create an illusion of spectacle on the small stage, and Reiss' bright choreography and the swift scene changes keep the show moving.

"Annie" continues through June 22 at the Forum Theatre, 4175 Fairmont Blvd., Yorba Linda. For information, call (714) 996-4195.

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