MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Annie – Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Reviewer: Ray Taylor

Book: Thomas Meehan

Music: Charles Strouse

Lyrics: Martin Charnin

Director: Nikolai Foster

The evergreen musical Annie is given the five star treatment in this sumptuous version that draws a standing ovation from a very appreciative audience. A whole new generation of theatre goers is likely to be won over by this heart-warming rags-to-riches story of the little put upon orphan girl Annie (Poppy Cunningham) who finds a new life and family in the kindly self-made billionaire Daddy Warbucks (Alex Bourne) and his long suffering but devoted housekeeper Grace Farrell (Amelia Adams). Escaping the clutches of the drunken head of the orphanage Miss Hannigan (played with relish by Craig Revel Horwood) and her ne’er-do-well brother Rooster (Paul French) and his doll Lily (Billie Kay), Annie finds solace where she least expected to in the time honoured tradition of fairy tales that have a happy ending.

All musicals are ultimately successful and long enduring because of memorable characters and singable tunes and Annie has both in abundance. An extremely talented cast does full justice to the array of life in 1930s New York, a time of the Great Depression in which the likes of the mega rich like Warbucks living in his spectacular mansion with it’s myriad of servants and luxuries rubbed shoulders with the down and outs and homeless of “Hooverville”. The original concept of the show was to mix social commentary with Broadway pizazz and this current version carries this off brilliantly. In the tradition of Oliver and Matilda, Annie and the other orphan girls come good in the end, overcoming all their hardships and grim surroundings in a feel-good ending.

Poppy Cunningham in the central role gives a very assured and confident performance, hitting all the right notes in the iconic songs. Her voice is strong and she is just as at home doing a solo, duetting with Warbucks or in an ensemble piece such as Hard Knock Life with the rest of the orphans. The part is so well-known from the successful movie versions and previous incumbents that there is stiff opposition but Cunningham does the part proud and she can be deservedly pleased with herself. Probably the most famous song from the show, Tomorrow, does not disappoint and she delivers it well and with feeling. Alex Bourne brings a warmth and humanity to the billionaire Warbucks whose heart melts when he meets Annie and he brings all his vast stage repertoire and musical experience to the role. Amelia Adams has a fantastic singing voice whose other credits include stints as the solo or lead vocalist in a number of productions. Her sympathetic portrayal of the kindly Grace Farrell is never cloying and she uses that terrific singing voice to full effect. Paul French and Billie Kay make a great couple of villains showing good comic touches.

Much is expected of Craig Revel Horwood in the central role of the tyrannical Miss Hannigan as he is a household name from his TV appearances as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. He doesn’t disappoint as he sings, swaggers and drinks his way through proceedings whilst simultaneously showing a nifty pair of legs at every opportunity. Whilst his New York accent occasionally wavers it never jars to make much difference and he makes good use of comic timing and visual gags. His singing voice is surprisingly accomplished and he is well versed in taking female roles having extensive stage experience in pantomimes and other musicals. His many adoring fans will not be disappointed by his portrayal of Miss Hannigan. His performance is “Fab-u-lous!” and earns a 9 out of 10 from this judge.

Mention must be made of the inventive set design which is in the form of a massive jigsaw puzzle. The idea behind this is that it is a metaphor for Annie’s life as she journeys through New York and tries to put together the pieces of her life. It is an attempt at magic realism and must be applauded for its creativity and overall look. The orchestra must also be congratulated for their terrific sound under the baton of Joshua Griffith. Last but not least it would be remiss of this reviewer not to mention the dog who fulfilled his walk on parts admirably and was as good as gold throughout.

Runs until 15 July 2023

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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One Comment

  1. We went on Monday to watch Annie and it was spectacular. However, we all felt that Miss Hanningan’s character was such a disappointment. She lacked acting skills and was too rigid with her body. Many times it felt like she was just reading off her script. Luckily, the other cast were fantastic and therefore compensated.
    We particularly loved Annie’s singing and Lily’s acting. She acted just like the Lily in the film.
    Well done for such a great performance. Loved it

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