Turner & Nason: Together Again!
By: Lawrence, “Lonnie” Brennan – August, 2011
What exactly is Moonlight Productions and how did they ever produce such a moving theatrical production in Georgetown this summer? Impossible to answer in just a few paragraphs…
Director and lead actor JT Turner, together again with music director Sandi Nason guided 42 actors and actresses (children, teens and adults), in their Georgetown production of Annie. A play you say? A play review? It’s been nearly two decades since I’ve been so moved by a theatrical group to dedicate a column to their masterpiece.
Let’s start with JT Turner. To be honest, he wasn’t at all what I expected when he walked onto stage: he was much better. Tremendous. I can’t say what I did expect (perhaps Albert Finney as bald-capped Oliver Warbucks in the early 80s film with co-star Carol Burnett?) but JT Turner was better. Much better. After uttering just a few lines, he set a new touchstone for the Daddy Warbucks character. I was sold and entranced as he kept surprising and building on the role. Words fail to describe the power and compassion equally doled out onstage. All I could think was ‘wow, in little Georgetown, we have actors like this?’ this is amazing. I’ve been to hundreds of productions, and here I find this?’
But it takes more than one powerful actor to make a production, it takes a complementary cast, a musical performance that rivals the best (yes, I felt like I was behind the orchestra pit at North Shore Music Theatre they were that stunning), and it takes an special type of director and staff to make a play work with 43 actors ranging from knee high to basketball dunker. I should add, watching Sandi Nason lip sing some of the songs as she played keyboard and was truly so into the music score, well, you could feel the emotion being transmitted to the music. (I can see her blushing while reading that now. What a nice lady.) (And the published list of musicians filling the performance with empowering and inspiring music made the show tremendous: Bob Knapp, Pam Moline, Steve LeBlanc, Tyler Hall, Aiden Kelly, Kim Knapp, and Catarina Bongiorni.)
Did I mention how Amy Sheridan was just too good as Miss Hannigan, the tormentor of Annie (nice performance by Bailey Amazeen) and the orphans? Yes, I mean, she was despicable. I hated her. Still do. Her rendition of ‘Little Girls’ (‘dripping with diamonds… dripping with pearls… lucky me., lucky me…) and when she screeched ‘will surely get an acquittal’, well, she played the role so well at times that I think if I saw her on the street I would cross to the other side. Wow. Talk about being able to bring a character to life. I give Sheridan thumbs up, with both hands.
In contrast, I think everyone fell in love with Kerry Anne Kilkelly (executive secretary Grace Farrell), who earned our respect for her quick, expressive interactions with Sheridan, and who stole our hearts with her love for Annie and Oliver, and her ‘fainting’ when being complimented by JT, and there’s not enough room in a simple column to compliment her singing. Classy lady.
Morgan Robertson (a show-stealing too cute performance, really owned her orphan role), Hanna Sotknek, Rowan Philpott, Carly Richards, Phoebe Lawe, Alicia D’Olimpio, Ava D’Ambrosio, Maddie Canelli, Lia Fitsimmons, Jenna Allen, Julia Budd, Ryan Bud, Aisling Callahan, Taylor Hussey, Aidan Ezpeleta, Emma Johnson, Anna Koken, Piper Lieto, Kayla Marino, Genevieve Roy, Noah Greenstein, Sophie Schell, Catherine Benjamin, Merrick Bilodeau, Allie Adam, Alex Nolan, Laura Patrie, Rachel Tammaro, Erin Winship, Molly Winship, and Charlotte Wallace…gosh, talk about a tremendous group. Each showed such style and grace and commitment. I would expect to see their futures bright. For disclosure, my first-time actress daughter Kinsey Brennan was graced to join the orphan ensemble where she had great fun!
It was the Hooverville residents, however, who sold the show including Patrie, D’Olimpio, Law, and Schell. Janice Hagerman deserves a special shout-out for her singing and facial expressions throughout. This is something you just had to see. This actress was 100% into her character and made us ready to lynch Herbert Hoover. Stunning is a word too often used, but if the word fits, we use it. Hagerman was stunning.
Dan Bruns I had to save to the near end of this little write-up. Still thinking of the words to describe his key performances as a servant, a Hooverville resident, and as President Roosevelt. “Comfortable” keeps coming to mind. I’ve never seen an actor who just seamlessly went from role to role and just seemed so comfortable on-stage. You quickly get the feeling that he’s been on stage and screen every day, a part of your ‘TV family’, as comfortable as your favorite sweater. He just fit. And seemed to have fun!
It was great to see Bob Pitts in so many roles. He added that spark of humor and fun to the evening. Impressive. Chris Pitts gets the unsung hero award for his brief role as Bert Healy in the NBC Radio studio. Versatile, fun. Dazzling.
Alex (‘A’-lex) Bookstein as the conniving Rooster should make his living in theatre. I need not elaborate further. Jenny Donovan (where did she find that Jersey accent? Amazing!) please tell me she’ll be pursuing theatre as a profession!
Looking forward to the 16th season of Moonlight Productions (a non-profit theater company). For info, see www.moonlightproductions.org.