There’s nothing like a dependable musical for a trip to the theatre over the summer holidays and Annie, currently playing at Wales Millennium Centre, fits the bill perfectly.
The great thing about revisiting a favourite at the theatre, is that you never get the same production twice. For me, this was my third Annie, different to my previous experiences, but undoubtedly still ticking all the boxes for the family feelgood factor!
The story, set in New York during The Great Depression, follows brave but plucky young Annie, who is forced to live a life of misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. The young orphan’s luck soon changes when she is selected to spend Christmas with famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. However, as the story unfolds, Miss Hannigan has other ideas about Annie’s change of fortune!
Annie transports the audience back to the 1930s via a vibrant colourful set, dotted with random jigsaw pieces (undoubtedly there to represent the missing pieces of Annie’s own identity as she tries to locate her real parents).
From the dingy orphanage – that crackles electricity as the lights are switched on – via the downbeat backdrop of Hooverville – with its broken car seats and make-shift fires to provide comfort for the down and outs – to Oliver Warbucks plush 1930s art-deco home, Annie has no issues presenting memorable backdrops for each scene.
I particularly loved the vibrancy of the map that illustrated New York City as Annie, Warbucks and Grace Farrell stepped out for an evening to visit the pictures where they were entertained by dancing sailors, usherettes and “The Star To Be” for the ensemble piece, NYC. Whatever the mood of the scene, the slick, tight choreography presented by the ensemble cast is both magical and mesmerising.
The glue holding Annie together is the energy brought to the production by the performers.
Mia Lakha combines pluck with cuteness in the title role while bubbling with joy in her performance. Particularly as she sings Tomorrow while encouraging President Roosevelt’s cabinet to be more optimistic about America’s future.
Similarly, Zara Bench, Kacey Agwuegbo, Dulcie Allsop, Marie Peedle, Saskia Salmon and Sophia Smith as the orphans, leap, somersault and sing through their performances of Hard Knock Life and Never Fully Dressed. Each young performer embraces the magic of the musical, that results in the strongest applauded responses during the show.
Adding a twist to the presentation is Craig Revel Horwood’s turn as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan. Dishevelled, far from lady like and brandishing a gin bottle, Revel Horwood’s portrayal is ferocious and funny as he performs the solo, Little Girls. There’s a lighter side to Hannigan later, as Horwood struts his stuff alongside Richard Meek’s Rooster and Jenny Gayner’s Lily for Easy Street. The reprise of Easy Street is particularly memorable as the orphanage atmospherics change to a red glow to match the characters shady plans for Annie!
Alex Bourne appears to be the physical embodiment of Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, the streetwise billionaire who has everything in life it seems but love. Bourne’s portrayal balances Warbucks’ self-assurance with flaws as he finds his way in the new role of adoptive parent which culminates with a joyous performance of Something Was Missing.
On hand to help Warbucks in his new role, is personal assistant Grace Farrell, portrayed by Carolyn Maitland. Combining an air of Hollywood starlet with polished authority, Miss Maitland clearly has fun as she shows Mia Lakha’s Annie around the Warbucks as she weaves in and out of clothes wracks and servants for the number, I Think I’m Going To Like It Here.
Special mention must also go to Amber as Annie’s dog, Sandy, who gets plenty of admiring sighs from the crowd, and some neat little appearances running across the stage as one scene segues into the next.
Full of energy, enthusiasm and enjoyable performances, Annie is the musical must-see for all the family! Don’t leave it until Tomorrow to book your tickets!