Director: Nikolai Foster
Book: Thomas Meehan
Music: Charles Strouse
Lyrics: Martin Charnin
Reviewer: Joseph Leigh
A household name for over a generation, when a new production of the classic musical Annie arrives in town it always has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Nikolai Foster’s most recent revival not only meets the audience’s expectations but exceeds them, delivering a fast-paced and uplifting production that has a modern relevance and poignancy in the wake of the 2008 global recession.
The Theatre Royal Plymouth plays host to the current leg of this superb production and from the moment that the audience enters the space it is clear that this is a performance set to wow, with the exceptionally talented child actors already set on stage and a period radio soundtrack to fully set the tone. This charged and excited atmosphere does not stop until long after the final curtain has closed, and it is clear that the cast gain as much enjoyment from their work as the audience, which only serves to enhance the experience.
As a musical that relies heavily on the talent and performance of a host of child actors, Annie always has the potential to run flat or lose momentum given the large amount of pressure placed on its younger stars. This production, however, is at no risk of such a problem, with each of the child actors delivering as much, if not more, energy and character as their adult counterparts. Each child performer has created and portrays a singularly unique character, with the result that the group of orphans are an entirely believable and wholly endearing set of friends. This production makes full use of this clear talent, with the orphans playing incidental rôles in scene changes and transitions that add to their mischievousness and character while underlining their centrality to the plot.
This is not to say that the adult performers are anything less than superb – each and every member of the cast is clearly giving their all throughout the performance with incredible energy and skill. The combined result is that every rôle, from supporting swing to Annie herself, feels like theportrayal of an individual. This subtle effect has a huge impact, as the production’s wholesome Christmas setting is intensified by the familial atmosphere created by these heartwarming characters.
Particular mention must go to Annie, played by Isabella Pappas, who delivers a performance with a strength and professionalism well beyond her years. Pappas, who has previously been nominated for an Olivier award, commands an impressive stage presence while displaying an exceptional vocal talent. Her chemistry with Alex Bourne’s Daddy Warbucks is also key to the success of this production, and the pair work superbly together. Bourne himself fills the iconic rôle of Warbucks in style, combining power and presence with the perfect level of humility and vulnerability needed to capture the benevolence of Annie’s protector.
A final mention must also go to the show’s celebrity name, Craig Revel Horwood, whose portrayal of Miss Hannigan is truly excellent. As a well-known personality himself, Revel Horwood faces the additional challenge of shaking off the audience’s pre-conceptions of him on top of creating his character – something which he achieves with aplomb. In delivering this rôle,Revel Horwood succeeds in wholly absorbing the audience into the existence of Miss Hannigan, and proves that he has an acting and vocal talent to match his renowned dancing prowess.
This production delivers everything that the audience could hope for; with a superb and dynamic set, well placed and effective lighting design, and a cast that gels as one talented whole. An absolute must-see for fans of Annie, musical theatre, and anyone looking for an evening’s entertainment. Get your tickets before they sell out!
Runs until 12th September 2015 as part of a UK tour.