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(Updated 6:30 a.m., Feb. 12)
St. Peter production of 'Annie' hits all the right notes

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Mitchell Schick and Gabrielle Banville play Daddy Warbucks and Annie in the St. Peter Musical Theatre production of 'Annie' on this week at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Fred Sherwin/Photo

When it comes to producing high school musicals, the St. Peter Musical Theatre Class and director/instructor Bernard Leger have set the gold standard, coming through year after year with some of the most professionally staged musical productions anywhere.

Their latest offering of "Annie", on this week at the Shenkman Arts Centre, is another in a long list of highly entertaining, wonderfully captivating musicals that includes Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Little Shop of Horrors, Grease, and last year's Tarzan - The Musical, which was their first production on the big stage at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

From the sound and lighting to the choreography, costumes and backing orchestra, the St. Peter Musical Theatre production is impeccable, and I haven't even gotten to the talented group of young thespians who make up the cast.

Gabrielle Manville is perfectly cast as the red-haired orphan, even though her tresses are more auburn than bright orange. She plays the role with just the right combination of cuteness and precociousness, with a great voice to boot.

Manville especially shines during her solos "Same Effect on Everyone", and everyone's Annie favourite "Tomorrow".

Another standout is Meg Barbeau who plays Warbucks personal assistant Grace. While the role doesn't include any solo performances, Barbeau's voice stood out during the numbers she performed in with the others.

The three male leads -- Mitchell Schick as Daddy Warbucks, Liam Murphy as Rooster, and Benjamin Massey are strong, but my highest praise is reserved for Kirsten Mainwood who plays Miss Hanigan, the woman who runs the orphanage.

While Annie is the main character, Miss Hannigan is the one who draws the broadest range of emotions from the audience, and Mainwood does a remarkable job playing the villainess. One minute she has you laughing out loud and the next you want to boo her.

Mainwood has great chops as well as evident by her solo performance of "Little Girls" and "Easy Street", which she performed with Murphy and Caitlin Munro who plays Rooster's accomplice Lily St. Regis.

The lead cast was rounded out by teacher Martin Couturier who plays President Roosevelt.

As good as the main cast was, the production's strongest moments were during the ensemble numbers which rank among the best I've heard in any previous St. Peter Musical Theatre production.

Their opening performance of "It's a Hard Knock Life" was off the charts and it continued with "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here", "N.Y.C." and "You Won't Be an Orphan for Long".

While the actors were all wonderful, the man who brings it all together is Bernard Leger who took on the added responsibility of orchestra conductor this year along with director and choreographer.

You still have two more nights to see the play for yourself. Curtain time Friday night and Saturday night is 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general seating and $20 for premier seating including surcharges and can be purchased at the Shenkman Arts Centre box office or online at www.shenkmanarts.ca.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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