Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
This was a special review for me, as not only do I love both of the “Annie” movies, but it was also the first time that I had taken my 7-year-old daughter to watch a musical. Expectations were high!
The Bradford Alhambra is one of my favourite theatres. The train station is just around the corner and it felt a “safe” walk back at almost 10pm with my little girl. There’s also a car park close by.
There’s a bar on every level of the theatre so my daughter and I found a table quite easily when we arrived (it serves food and reasonably priced tea and cake too!) and the staff are always friendly.
In the main auditorium there are booster seats for children, which a lot of theatres still don’t have, so that was a help. There’s plenty of legroom, comfortable seating and a fantastic view from where we sat in the stalls!
The play is set in 1930’s New York and tells the story of Annie (Taziva-Faye Katsande), who was abandoned at an orphanage by her parents when she was a baby, with a note and one half of a silver necklace. Annie is now 11 years old and lives with 6 other girls (Team Chrysler) in an orphanage run by the drunken Miss Hannigan (Anita Dobson), but believes that one day her parents will come back to find her.
However, billionaire Mr Warbucks (Alex Bourne) enlists his assistant Grace (Carolyn Maitland) to choose an orphan to spend the Christmas fortnight with them. After a week with Annie Mr Warbucks is desperate to adopt her, but upon realising that her dream is to find her real parents he sets out to find them with the help of his contacts and the silver necklace, but things don’t go to plan.
I’m always amazed when I see children on stage, but these girls were just something else. Their powerful performance of “Hard Knock Life” was my absolute favourite of the show, and they made complex choreography look effortless. I’m not a fan of the stereotypical theatre school over-acting, and I’m pleased to say there wasn’t a bit of this in sight. The girls were endearing, had great comedy timing and endless talent.
Taziva (Annie) has the most beautiful voice, and I loved how genuine the relationships felt between her and the characters of Mr Warbucks and Grace. She was an amazing leading lady and gave a truly emotional performance of “Tomorrow”.
I thought the casting was perfect and must mention Anita Dobson who was just the right amount of “over the top” in her portrayal of Miss Hannigan. What an amazing actress and a convincing drunk; every movement of her arm was so carefully and naturally choreographed I thought she was superb. On several occasions she had my daughter chuckling beside me.
“Easy Street” was another memorable number, again not just down to the singing, but with Dobson’s quirky dancing and mannerisms. I would honestly rush to buy tickets for any of her shows after tonight’s performance, and I hadn’t expected to feel like that.
There was a sprinkling of comedy throughout, with various historical references for the adults and more silly humour to keep everyone involved. I found the scene in the White House hilarious so keep an eye out for that one!
This is a fantastic show for adults and children; there’s nothing inappropriate and when I explained the story-line during the interval my daughter had managed to gather the main ideas by herself anyway. She even described why the set was covered in jigsaw pieces to me, so this detail isn’t lost on even the youngest audience members. In fact, the set was fantastic, especially in contrasting the orphanage and the mansion.
My daughter loved the costumes, and I have to say how pleased I am that Annie kept to the famous red dress, but also adored Miss Hannagan’s array of stained dresses and negligee. The set, costumes, music and fantastic cast were a winning combination.
I can only think of positive comments to make about this show… they even had a dog on stage, so it ticked every imaginable box for me.
Without question this is a 5-star show, but my daughter and I would like to award a bonus star for the amazing child performers! We sang, laughed and skipped all the way back to the train station.
Tickets cost from £20 to £50.50 (booking fees may apply).
Annie is at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford from 22-27 April 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.bradford-theatres.co.uk or call the box office on 01274 432000.
Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ | 01274 432000