Last night was Leah’s opening as Annie in the musical “Annie.” She was fantastic. Last month I wrote about her getting this role and how, during the casting process, I needed to forcibly restrain my Mama Rose tendencies. I don't think I was too bad last night, I never once screamed “Sing out, Louise!” from the audience.
Leah has done close to 20 shows with this theatre company over the years but this was her first show with the master class, made up of the oldest kids. The very first performances in children’s theatre are often a bit iffy. Sometimes what’s happening on the stage is so confusing that unless you have the entire play and score committed to memory (as I always do) you wouldn’t have a clue as to what the story is about. It’s especially hard for Leah’s mom, born and raised in France with little exposure to American musicals. I’ve looked at her face during some of these first shows as she desperately tries to follow along. “Who are those nuns and why is one of them getting married?” “Why are those nice little boys picking those people’s pockets?” “Did that plant just eat the main character? What’s going on?” Some of the dance numbers in these early performances look like they were choreographed by martial artists, with kids ramming into each other at every turn. But, as in the Hanukkah miracle which we start celebrating tonight, by the second performance the kids have somehow gotten it all together and the shows become as cohesive as a long-running Broadway blockbuster. Part of the problem is that school and theatre schedules often create long delays between the final rehearsal and opening night. This was particularly true for “Annie.” The kids hadn’t been together since December 2nd, almost two weeks before their first performance in front of an audience. But man, they pulled it off. Sure, there were a few dropped lines here and there, and a couple of missed song cues, but they got more confident in every scene and it was a great show.
Needless to say, seeing Leah up there belting out “Tomorrow” sent chills up my spine and I would have happily sold my soul to the devil if my late mother could have seen it. She was a Broadway fanatic (who was with me when we stood in the SRO section of the Alvin Theatre in 1978 watching the original “Annie”) and would have kvelled herself into a state of apoplexy to see her first grandchild playing that part. But maybe she was watching the show somehow.
Most of the photos I took came out blurry because I was too afraid of blinding the kids with my flash but if I can get an audio or video clip tomorrow night I’ll add it later. I can see I’m already acting like one of those painfully annoying parents who talk too much about their kids so I’ll stop. At least I’ve never put a bumper sticker on my car extolling the accomplishments of my child, why do people do that? (As if writing blog entries about her accomplishments is any better?) Even more embarrassing is the way I scan the program looking for the kids of famous parents. And oh my God, there were some doozies this time. I think it would be too obnoxious to name them (although not half as obnoxious as mentioning them at all) but let me just say that for two of the kids, both of their parents are HUGE movie stars. Enough of a hint? Honestly, I should be barred from all children’s theatre.
The one part of the play that reduced me to mush was when Leah finally accepted Daddy Warbucks’ love after realizing that she wasn’t going to find her real parents. But then those imposters, played by Miss Hannigan’s brother Rooster and his floozy girlfriend arrived and convinced everyone that they were Annie’s birth parents. They were going to come the next day to take her away. Annie knew she should be happy and couldn’t figure out why she felt so miserable. Leah sat alone on the set of the Warbucks mansion, looked down sadly, and sang:
And maybe I’ll forget
How nice he was to me
And how I was almost his baby…
Oh crap, I’m crying again just thinking about it.