When times get tough, no one overcomes adversity like Little Orphan Annie. She has survived the perils of the Great Depression and World War II, criminals and political extremists, the orphanage and the monopolists, all the while promoting a peculiar brand of free market populism and frontier justice as quirky as her creator and cartoonist, Harold Gray.

Then, in 1977, the girl with a song in her heart started singing, and Broadway curtain calls continued for nearly six years. Now, just in time for our current "worldwide economic readjustment," Annie returns to Boulder's Dinner Theatre (BDT) to remind us that tomorrow is just a day away.

BDT artistic director Michael J. Duran likes to spread around the opportunities for his talented company, with Scott Beyette getting the call to direct this one. Its a challenging assignment involving lots of kids and a charming, but mostly anonymous, score.

The seven children's roles, including that of Annie, are double-cast. We caught Kate Lubotsky in the title role, serving up healthy doses of optimism and spunk, if occasionally a little rough with the melody. Never flagging in their enthusiasm, Lubotsky and her fellow orphans have a blast tormenting Miss Hannigan (Alicia Dunfee), their bitter, hard-drinking, overseer. Dunfee strikes an engaging blend of archtype and caricature, befitting the origins of this melodramtic serial.

As luck would have it, Gotham's biggest tycoon, Oliver Warbucks (Wayne Kennedy) sends his secretary, Grace Farrell (Shelly Cox-Robie) to the orphanage to choose one kid to spend the Christmas season at his opulent mansion. Annie listens as Grace tells Miss Hannigan the details, and then sells herself as the best fit, despite Warbucks' wish for a boy.

As always, Kennedy and Cox-Robie play off each other to a tee, illuminating the key evolutionary moments in Oliver and Grace's largely unsung relationship.

Maggie, the nine-year old labradoodle who performs as Sandy, a stray who becomes Annie's loyal canine companion, is adorable and on cue throughout.

Scenic Designer Amy Campion's multi-purpose, three turntable take on the 1930's New York skyline provides a stunning backdrop and stylish segues.

Annie is a delight and a prescient choice for the times.

Boulder's Dinner Theatre's production of Annie runs through September 5th. 303-449-6000.

Bob Bows


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