New York City is a mess. Unemployment is high. A billionaire Republican is deeply unhappy. Sound familiar? What a time to relaunch Annie, the rags-to-riches 1977 musical about a redheaded orphan, her alcoholic caretaker, a mangy dog, and the rich bald guy who wants to adopt her. Though the story may be familiar, director James Lapine's new production feels as fresh as a Lower East Side bialy on a Sunday morning.
In large part, the credit goes to Lilla Crawford in the title role. The 11-year-old L.A. native is cute without being cloying, sassy without being obnoxious, and gives Annie some street cred with her just-Noo-Yawk-enough accent. (If, like me, your eyes hurt at the sight of a curly-haired girl forced into a Q-tip-like wig, you will rejoice at Crawford's more natural shoulder-length 'do.) Plus, Crawford shows remarkable poise wrangling her canine pal, Sandy (Sunny, a rescue dog herself), who looked a little more interested in something offstage during ''Tomorrow.''
Crawford's not alone in her scene-stealing power. Katie Finneran (Promises, Promises) brings the perfect dose of tragedy to the boozy orphanage matron Miss Hannigan while relishing every second of venom-filled numbers like ''Little Girls.'' Set designer David Korins also deserves a bow, depicting the rooms in Oliver Warbucks' (Anthony Warlow) mansion as pages in a storybook and sending up posh urban sites in ''N.Y.C.'' This Annie is a love letter to both the city and a musical that's endured for 35 years. A-
(Tickets: Ticketmaster.com or 877-250-2929)