After six months of preparation and a one-week postponement due to COVID-19, Just for Laughs has finally launched its summer comedy, Anne, under the colorful direction of Serge Denoncourt. Report of an electrifying premiere!
Posted yesterday at 11:12 a.m.
There were several “proud and fulfilled” parents on Wednesday at the St-Denis Theater, during the official premiere of the musical Anne. Including those of Raphaëlle Morissette, 12, who was making her debut on the boards (a certain Véronique Cloutier and her husband Louis Morissette). Not only them, because the Quebec adaptation of this Broadway classic is an instant public success. The kind of entertainment that puts color and a smile on the darkest faces.
We look Anne musical comedy thinking that only the magic of Broadway can make the fate of a little orphan girl abandoned during the Great Depression, in the early 1930s, a playful, unifying and family show for audiences aged 7 to 77.
The staging is pure Serge Denoncourt. With references to The Threepenny Operafrom Brecht (Hoverville); to Michel Tremblay (the excellent number It’s a life of hell remember Cursed Flat Life of the musical sisters-in-law). Denoncourt also displayed a penchant for popular theatre, comedy, even burlesque. A few performers play around at times, emphasizing the caricature of characters already drawn in broad strokes (Anne is originally a comic book in the newspapers). It’s part of the summer menu. We will not sulk his pleasure, even if the representation stretches a little.
But there is in this production a commendable desire to illustrate the best of the United States: the America of President Roosevelt and his “New Deal”, a country where the poor and the rich, the Democrats and the Republicans, can help each other and reconcile. The times are changing…
In the cast, the young Kayla Tucker defends the main role of the orphan redhead with panache. It’s a great discovery and a feat for this teenager born for the stage. We knew the talent of Geneviève Alarie, but her Madame Hannigan is simply amazing! Half-Cruella DeVil, half-Betty Bird, her character should run a brothel rather than an orphanage. His repartee provokes the most reactions in the room. David Savard is perfect as the kind-hearted billionaire Warbucks. Véronique Claveau, Émily Bégin and the arch-gifted Kevin Houle are also very solid.
But the most amazing thing about this production are the musical numbers, brilliantly choreographed by Wynn Holmes, assisted by Nico Archambault (the latter is also part of the choir and the cast).
Holmes offers a happy marriage of movements that are both classic and urban; from hip-hop to jazz ballet via the Charleston and the waltz. The pianist Lorenzo Somma, always present on stage, also plays a character who makes connections between the scenes. The costumes by Pierre-Guy Lapointe and the decor by Guillaume Lord, which evokes several districts of Manhattan, are very successful.
Serge Denoncourt also signs the Quebec translation, at times playful, of the libretto and the songs, in collaboration with Manuel Tadros (for the songs). An element that adds a very local flavor to this American and universal story.
Annie, the musical
Duration: approximately 2h40 with intermission.
Five new performances at St-Denis from July 28 to 31. At Salle Albert-Rousseau, in Quebec City, starting August 12.