The set was mostly blue, with the floors and the walls all being the exact same shade. On the flats between the wings there was a faint map of New York City which was a nice detail, and the entirety of the proscenium arch was covered in puzzle pieces to convey the juvenile theme of the show. The set looked slightly similar to that of the West-end Matilda set, and although it was a noticeable likeness, it was not great enough to appear to be a purposeful copy. There was not much in the way of any more set apart from door frames and chairs, most of the story-telling relied on props or indeed the imagination of the audience.
An orphaned, 11-year old girl is left at the steps of a New York orphanage as a baby, where she is raised by a cruel and drunken woman who runs the home. Annie is whisked away to the home of a billionaire for 2 weeks as a publicity stunt, but after a week Mr Warbucks is so enchanted by Annie that he wishes to adopt her immediately. A spanner is thrown in the works, however, when a vengeful Miss Hannigan teams up with her scheming brother, to attempt to steal Annie back- as well as a small fortune.
Review of Annie:
Everyone knows it, everyone’s seen it, everyone knows exactly what it’s about. I am pleased to say that this production offered its own unique vision to the musical classic all while still keeping with the homely and nostalgic feel that makes the show what it is. Straight off the bat Harlie Bathram who played Annie was clearly perfect for the role. She had a powerful voice that was loud but never shouty, and she maintained a bright tone in her singing that made her incredibly charming. Her delivery was always quick off the mark and confident, but she also acted moments of sadness incredibly appropriately. Also two characters extremely of note were Grace Farrell and Mr Warbucks (Played by Amelia Adams and Alex Bourne, respectively).
Grace was elegant and fitted for the role, she was an extremely strong soprano whose voice was very classical-sounding which was appropriate for the time period. She had just the right amount of maternalism as well as cheekiness, meaning that while she was motherly and a great carer towards Annie she also had her own individual personality outside of that. Alex Bourne also had a brilliant voice and you could tell that he was an experienced performer. Although Warbucks does not have many comedic lines within the show, the ones that he did have were delivered with excellent comedic timing making him only more likeable. There were many stand-out performances within the musical; all the characters were extremely unique in their own ways, but someone who was particularly captivating to watch was Lily (played by Billie-Kay).
Lily was the squealy, sulky girlfriend of Rooster, whose demeanour changed from elated to angry in often a matter of seconds. She was a character of great effervescence, you couldn’t help but feel drawn to her even though she was a villain, and the chemistry she had with Rooster was so palpable that from an audience’s perspective, you genuinely would have believed they were a couple. She was also a brilliant dancer, who had enough of the original film version of Lily in her to be recognisable, but enough of her own spunk to make her performance distinctive.
Rooster who was played by Paul French was brilliant at times though rather boring at others. He was sly and sleazy as the character was expected to be, and as I said before he had great onstage chemistry with Lily, however during the second half he became almost more diluted, and while he was supposed to be becoming even more vile than before, his scheming plans did not align with his apparent unbothered demeanour. The person everybody really loves to hate (or hates to love) is of course the wicked, child-loathing Miss Hannigan.
I myself was particularly excited as I knew that Craig Revel-Horwood would be reprising the role once more. I have seen Craig act, sing and dance in a multitude of things before so I knew of his great talent already.
The singing of both Little Girls and Easy Street was completely unmatched by any other numbers in the musical as Craig’s voice really had the space to show off in them- the same goes for his dance numbers. However, I was quite disappointed by his actual acting performance of Miss Hannigan as I personally found it rather flat. When Craig would speak he would be, at times, inaudible due to his mumbling; and what surprised me most was how he often spoke with his back to the audience, which I thought would be a rule he of most people would understand. Craig’s performance seemed to genuinely be split into two halves; there was Craig when he was dancing and singing which (for a character like Miss Hannigan) seemed almost too polished, and then there was Craig when he was acting where he was drunk and in a state of constant annoyance.
It seemed that Craig remained in character while he was acting but the second he began singing or dancing he would just become himself. For the screen, I believe his performance would have been phenomenal, as it was filled with wonderful micro expressions and mumbled remarks, but for stage, I know for a fact that he needed to project a lot more to his audiences to be understood from the very back of the rows.
This particular production used the same score as the 2012 Broadway cast recording, which meant that while audiences would have recognised most of the original songs, there were a few extra added songs that they may not have known. This however did not stop the newer, less familiar songs from holding viewers’ interest, as one of the very first ensemble numbers ‘We’d like to thank Herbert Hoover’ was not only a wonderfully entertaining number but it told me everything I needed to know about the ensemble right from the get-go. This ensemble in question was one of the best live ensembles I have ever seen.
They were full of energy first of all, but more importantly they were enough of a collective to all be in time with one another and not distract from the protagonists, but also unique enough in their own performances that each member was discernible from the other.
As I mentioned previously, Easy Street was a completely show-stopping number, with bright lights, flashy choreography and powerful vocals. In fact, I don’t believe there was a weaker link in terms of the musical numbers; all the songs were genuinely amazing. I was wary of coming to watch this performance as I was scared the children (due to their age) would be noticeably less convincing than their adult co-stars; I was, however, wonderfully surprised. I do genuinely believe that the children were as good, if not better, than the adult ensemble. Of course their dancing and singing was often clumsy, with the occasional mess-up or bump into the other person, but because their characters were so full of life, the clumsiness felt entirely fitting and they were completely heart-warming to watch.
I did at times wonder if they were singing to a pre-recorded backing track, as their voices were so powerful that they carried over the band and right through the entirety of the theatre. It sounded as if there were at least 15 of them when in reality there were only about 6. Although there were no directorial choices made within the production that particularly surprised me or made the show completely stand out from its countless other versions, Annie is a production which, no matter how many times you watch it, you cannot help but be charmed by.
There are no real secrets to the plot at this point and I would be genuinely impressed if a director managed to entirely make it something new at this point in time. But just the magic of the narrative and the music itself was enough to sell the show to me, which obviously could not have been conveyed if it weren’t executed by such brilliant performers.
It was a genuine joy to see a show where the children upstaged the adults and not the other way around, and I would highly recommend it to anybody who has never seen the musical, or has seen it countless times.