DramaMusicalReviewSouth West

Annie – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Based on the book by Thomas Meehan

Music: Charles Strouse

Lyrics: Martin Charnin

Director: Nikolai Foster

Choreographer: Nick Winston.

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Based on the popular comic strip Little Orphan Annie, the original Broadway production of Annie the musical, back in the Seventies, was an outstanding success, running for six years. Not surprising, really – the rags to riches story of eleven-year-old orphan Annie couldn’t fail to grab at the heartstrings. The same is true now in this latest revival, directed by Nikolai Foster, of a musical with the heart-warming theme of a young girl living in an orphanage from which she is determined to escape and find her parents.

A broadcast harangue, somewhat overlong, before the lights dim sets the scene squarely in New York in the Thirties, the time of the Great Depression when President Roosevelt and his cabinet were struggling to find a way through. Designer Colin Richmond’s set with its random jigsaw pieces emphasizes the disjointed existence led by many – not least the orphans, of whom eleven-year-old Annie is the ringleader, under the tyrannical rule of the scary Miss Hannigan.

As the wicked harridan intent on looking after number one, Craig Revel Horwood takes command of the stage, coping brilliantly with a pair of high heeled backless mules in the opening scenes. Horwood gives it welly in Easy Street in Act I, going for it at full throttle and proving that judging Strictly is not by any means his only talent – he can both dance and act with expertise; his timing is spot on. A true pro.

On the night reviewed the leading role of Annie was played by Mia Lakha, making her professional on-stage debut. A challenging role for any young aspiring actress and Mia did well. There was a tendency for the voices of several of the young performers to become a little shrill, possibly due to being over-miked, and compensated for by the verve with which they performed the energetic moves required by Nick Winston’s clever and innovative choreography.

The popular Alex Bourne, who played the role in the West End production, is a lovable Daddy Warbucks – tentative at first as befits the part, becoming an avuncular figure who more than cuts the mustard as an adoptive Dad. The wistful Something Was Missing, sung by Warbucks and Annie in Act I and later reprised in Act II, scored brownie points with this reviewer.

Full marks to all the adult performers in this production of a heart-warming musical. As if performing with a posse of young actors wasn’t enough in itself, there is Amber – a cuddly five-year-old Labradoodle who appears to really enjoy his stage appearance, trotting back and forth obediently whenever required. Necessary treats were not always adequately concealed but hey ho! That’s part of the fun of show biz!

Runs until Saturday 31 August 2019 | Image: Contributed

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Heart-warming revival

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