Annie – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Reviewer: Dan English

Book: Thomas Meehan

Music: Charles Strouse

Lyrics: Martin Charnin

Director: Nikolai Foster

Craig Revel Horwood is wickedly funny and devilish as the iconic Miss Hannigan in this wonderfully sweet production of Annie which reaches Dartford’s Orchard Theatre as part of its tour.

The iconic musical needs no introduction, as its titular star, Annie, grapples with living a life of despair at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage before soon seeing the potential for her life to change once big businessman billionaire Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks invites the spirited orphan to join him for Christmas, while the cruel and villainous Hannigan seeks fortune for herself at Annie’s expense. Annie continues to be a staple of musical theatre, and it is no ‘hard-knock life’ watching this polished production.

Productions of Annie are only as good as the show’s lead protagonist, and this production is in safe hands with the wonderfully talented Poppy Cunningham who dazzles in the titular role. Despite her age, Cunningham looks at ease in this role and steals the show with her powerful performance. The role of Annie requires the performer to switch from being precocious to being vulnerable in seconds, as orphan Annie longs for the return of her mother and father, and Cunningham achieves this with aplomb and promises a bright future for her on the stage.

Revel Horwood receives top billing for his role as Miss Hannigan and the Strictly judge is fabulous in this role. Horwood maintains the balance between comedy and villainy in role and makes Hannigan instantly dislikable, all while oozing an aire that makes this portrayal of Hannigan very enjoyable. The only drawback is that Hannigan appears very little in the second half, a fault of the story and not the performer, but it is a shame that there is not a lot more of Hannigan after the interval.

As Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks, Alex Bourne returns to the role having previously played the billionaire in a previous touring version, and Bourne slips straight back into this role seamlessly. Bourne, simply put, is excellent as Warbucks, capturing just enough of the character’s capitalist mindset before making the audience, just like Annie, become enamoured with his big heart. The relationship between Warbucks and Annie feels genuinely warm, and Bourne is simply wonderful in the role.

Amelia Adams’s Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ assistant who rescues Annie from Hannigan, and captures Warbucks’ eye, is typically sweet and charming, and Adams’ portrayal of Grace is instantly likeable. Adams seizes the opportunity at points to show off an impressively strong vocal range. It is a little disjointed that the love which blossoms between Warbucks and Grace feels a little too sidelined, but just like the rest of the main cast, Adams’ strong portrayal aides in staging this particularly slick production.

Supporting the main cast is a hard-working ensemble who slickly bring the world of Annie to life. The ensemble are commanding in the delivery of Nick Winston’s choreography. The set piece routines and iconic musical numbers are delivered commandingly, and help in making such a fun night out happen.

Colin Richmond’s set and costume design throws us immediately into 30s America, into a land of the haves and have-nots as Annie tries to find her place in Roosevelt’s Depression America. The dilapidated orphanage is contrasted nicely to Warbucks’ palatial home, and Richmond’s malleable designs enable swift costume and set changes which aide in the storytelling. This is an eye catching production.

Despite its age, Annie is showing no signs of wear and tear. This is still a heartwarming production which is full of warmth, fun and humour that more than matches the productions which have come before it. The production boasts that you’re never ‘fully dressed without a smile’, and it is hard not to leave this show beaming.

Runs until Saturday 6th May then continues tour.

The Reviews Hub Score

Heart-warming Fun

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