Writer: Thomas Meeham
Music: Charles Strouse
Lyrics: Martin Charnin
Director: Nicolai Foster
Reviewer: Francesca Parker
The classic rags-to-riches story has once again been brought to life on stage. Despite being set in New York at the time of the Great Depression, Annie is the anything but downbeat. The heart-warming tale of a young orphan whose life changed irrevocably after a chance encounter, despite facing multiple hurdles, can thaw the coldest of hearts. This revamp of the classic 1978 Tony Award-winning production proves how a timeless musical can remain a family favourite still today.
Sometimes the production quality in a tour can lack depth and detail in set design, simply due to it needing to be deconstructed regularly. Consequently, we as the audience can occasionally be left feeling somewhat empty. However, nothing could be further from the truth with this masterpiece. The set and costumes used in Annie are sublime – combined they help to transport us to the 1930’s and yet keep our feet firmly rooted in the present day. Richmond’s visual masterpiece helps to draw focus on the playful nature of the story through his use of puzzle pieces littering the stage. Yet simultaneously, he highlights the more complex subject matter for the adults through the effective use of colour symbolism. His creations help to emanate the sense of warmth the story so desperately wants us to experience.
One of the greatest things about Annie was its cast. The strength of the ensemble, particularly the children, ensured that even the most challenging of musical numbers were superb. Freya Yates in the lead role of Annie gave the performance of her life – she absolutely stole the audiences’ heart away. In fact, all the children (and dog) quite stole the show. However, Anita Dobson’s portrayal of the notorious Miss Hannigan was convincing, but lacking in any real depth. There were grumblings in the audience that Miss Hannigan seemed to be less calculated than they had expected, describing her performance as rather more akin to a pantomime dame. It, more simply put, may be that the entirety of the cast were so strong, it was difficult for the headline act to stand out. Nevertheless, Dobson was ably supported by her partner in crime, Rooster (Richard Meek); where together they recreated the toe-tapping iconic number Easy Street. Other stand-out performances were delivered by Alex Bourne as Mr. Warbucks and Carolyn Maitland as his assistant.
All in all, if you’re partial to an upbeat musical, nostalgic from your own experiences of Annie as a child, inclined to frequent the theatre or have a young family you wish to culturally educate then take a break from your Hard Knock Life and get to the Bristol Hippodrome – quick sharp.
Touring nationwide | Image: Paul Coltas