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24-hour ‘Annie’ brings improv spirit to Broadway production

The 24-hour musical has become a sanctified Brandeis tradition, bringing throngs of sleepless theater kids and audience members alike to the SCC theater every year. The production, which this year brought ever-hopeful orphan “Annie” to the stage, is entirely created in exactly one day. The considerable talent of all involved created a surprisingly impressive product, given this limitation, but part of the fun of 24-hour is laughing with actors at their flubbed lines and desperate dancing, and “Annie” did not disappoint.

The show started off with an impressive rendering of “Maybe,” headlined by Mia Rubinstein ’22 as the titular Annie. Set up by an ensemble of adorably annoying orphans, Rubinstein showed her character’s signature optimism with impressive vocals. This was followed by the sarcastically suffering “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” led by the duo of Annie and fellow mischievous orphan Molly, played by Reika Oshima ’21. Despite occasional stumbling this complicated number was pulled off adroitly, with all the orphans pitching in for the classically light song of suffering.

Annie escapes the orphanage, with the help of laundryman Bundles, played by Sean Riordan ’22 which leads to several hilarious scenes where she meets stray dog Sandy, played by Emily Blackman ’22, who becomes a star of the show in her own right with total commitment to being a dog despite occasional ear-related wardrobe mishaps.

Eventually caught, Annie is returned to the orphanage in the middle of “Little Girls,” the laments of her “caretaker” Miss Hannigan, played by Talia Jacobson ’22 with a raspily weary sort of cynicism. Before Annie can be punished, the assistant to famously rich “Daddy” Warbucks, played by Jolie Suchin ’22, comes to the orphanage in search of a child to spend the holidays with Warbucks. She takes Annie, threatening Miss Hannigan with a prim self-confidence.

The initial meeting between Warbucks and Annie is one of the high points of the show. Harrison Paek ’22 is perfectly bewildered as a businessman confronted by the demands of an insistent 11-year old, who becomes hilariously manipulative in the hands of Rubinstein.

While the coherency of the show steadily begins to fall apart from this point due to a lack of rehearsal time, it loses nothing. Forgotten lines are replaced by improvised jokes, and as the original Broadway production disappears, a uniquely Brandeis show emerges constructed of pandering to laughter and winks to the audience.

And while the feat of constructing a show in limited time is impressive, this is what truly makes the 24-hour a remarkable event. Audiences, relegated to watching shows only once they are finished, rarely get a glimpse of one of the best parts of the theatrical experience: development. As a show is created, it goes through absurd versions formed from the whims of a stressed and tired creative team but which never make it outside of the rehearsal room. 24-hour breaks down that barrier, inviting anyone to see a show as it slowly deconstructs itself back from practice and polish to a first-reading featuring performers reacting to, instead of acting out, their lines.

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