|The cast of Annie with Sharon McNight- Singer Sharon McNight, Liz Power, Bo Ruff, Monica Patton and Marissa O?Donnell, who plays Annie in the show.Photo by Rink.
Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation presented an evening of high-energy music, dance, and comedy starring members of the cast of the musical, Annie, including a performance by TV star Mackenzie Phillips who is currently touring in Annie as the unscrupulous girlfriend; Grammy award winner Thelma Houston; and Tony nominated Sharon McNight at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre on Sept. 19. These One Night Only Cabarets benefit REAF and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Scott Willis, who plays Rooster Hannigan, acted as emcee. When he mentioned that the kids in the cast of Annie could not make it to the show, the whole cast came out and sang “What’s the Matter with Kids Today” from Bye Bye Birdie. Then Richard Costa soloed with his medley of “Imagination,” “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” and “Cock-eyed Optimist.”
Thelma Houston is in town starring as Madame ZinZanni in San Francisco’s long-running hit dinner show, “Love, Chaos, and Dinner” at Teatro ZinZanni. She treated the audience first to a slow rendition and then the zippy disco version of her hit, “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” and got everyone clapping along. I was reminded of those good ol’ days when we guys were shirtless and sweaty in the Trocadero, dancing till dawn while sniffing various substances.
Kelly Rector sang “Gimme Gimme” (“that thing called love”) from Thoroughly Modern Millie. Harry Turpin followed with Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home.” Bo Ruff, wearing a tee shirt stating “Bad Stagehand: No Donut” came out and adjusted the mic, moved a chair center stage, started to walk off for the next act to come on, but instead took the mic himself and sang the hell out of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” proving that techies have their talent too. Then Julie Cardia amusingly mused about where a 30 year-old Annie in a red Afro might end up in modern times with her dog. She sang “Times Like This” (“a girl could use a dog”), and called offstage to an imaginary dog; but it soon became clear that she was calling a real dog when out scampered the actual pup that plays Annie’s Sandy in the show. What could follow this but Aaron Kaburick’s re-creation of what was announced to be his first place winning tap number from an Illinois county fair exhibition, entitled “The Curly Shuffle,” incorporating all the Three Stooges noises (nyuk nyuk, woo).
Act two opened with an extremely clever, utterly hilarious takeoff on the musical called “Annie Lite,” in which the entire play was acted out by the company, in little snippets that made loving fun of Annie. The audience howled as cast members played “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” on kazoos, introducing a bunch of adults in children’s clothing acting as the orphans doing “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” and an obviously 20-something year-old lady in a rainbow Afro wig mugging it up as Annie. “I love you, Miss Hannigan,” they sing-songed to the very drunken orphanage caretaker. Sandy was a beat up stuffed toy dog that everyone kicked around. Daddy Warbucks (with a nylon stocking on his head to indicate baldness and a huge hip-hop pimped-out gold dollar sign hanging around his neck) was having an affair with his secretary and couldn’t care less about the orphan girl, flatly telling her that her parents are dead. “I’ve had enough of this brat,” he said, planting a huge kiss on the secretary and ignoring Annie.
As a special treat, Sharon McNight sang, despite a bad case of sniffles, her Castro Street gay version of “Your son will come out tomorrow.” She followed with a deliciously depressing piece by her friend Amanda McBroom (who wrote the title song from the movie, The Rose), “It’s Gonna Be One of Those Days” from her latest Broadway show, A Woman of Will: “You look into the mirror—you’re not getting better, you’re just getting older; you say ‘How perverse!’ Your upper half gets smaller, and your lower—vice verse.” And there is a whole string of funny lyrics about stepping in your dog’s food dish, discovering your parrot is dead, your mortgage is due but you’re overdrawn, and the garbage man won’t come. You know—everyday bummers that lead to thoughts of self-immolation. MacKenzie Phillips sang a number her clever fiancé (Keith Levinson, who was also one of the keyboardists at the show) wrote entitled “Desire.” I am sad to say that her voice did not seem to be in peak form that night.
Liz Power sang the Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer classic “I Had Myself a True Love.” Ed Romanoff introduced “In Whatever Time We Have” from Children of Eden, making an apropos reference to how we never really know how much time we will have with our friends who are fighting life-threatening illnesses, and how we should treasure each and every day we have with them. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. The company joined David Chernault to do “Trouble” (“that starts with a ‘T’, and rhymes with ‘P’, and that stands for ‘pool’”) from Music Man. Billy Kimmell sang “It Would Have Been Wonderful” from an obscure musical sequel, Annie Warbucks. And for something different, Katherine Pecevich did “Twisted” in which “My analyst told me that I was out of my head; but two heads are better than one.” Hands down, the funniest number of the night was sung by a very frustrated Elizabeth Broadhurst (who plays Daddy Warbuck’s secretary) to four hunks on stage: “All the Good Men Are Gay” from a show (I later found out from Broadhurst at the cast party) entitled The Gay Nineties Musical. The best part was how the overtly queer foursome acted out the lyrics as ballet dancers, Cher impersonators, nelly queens, and macho men hotly embracing. “Some of my best friends are gay,” she explained—saying she meant no offense—but then added, “Oh hell, ALL of my friends are gay!” The mostly queer audience went into sheer hysterics over that one. The entire cast and guest performers joined together for the rousing finale, “Heart and Music,” stressing the importance of having both in life. And if you want to have heart and music, you will want to be sure to go to the seventh annual “Help Is on the Way for the Holidays” on Dec. 4 at the Herbst Theatre. For tix call 273-1620 or go to the website at helpisontheway.org.