Reviewed by Jenny Bray
I remember Annie as a film on the television when I was young. I recall an annoying high-pitched red headed little girl on the screen belting out the tracks. I was therefore intrigued about seeing it as a musical on stage, but secretly hoping that the person playing Annie wouldn’t have quite such an annoying tone of voice as in the film!
Just in case you don’t know the story; it is set in New York in the 1930s, so during the great depression. Annie is stuck in an orphanage run by Miss Hannigan (Craig Revel Horwood, one of Strictly Come Dancing’s judges) who feeds them very cheap food and has them working as she drinks and pockets the profits. Mr Warbucks, a billionaire, wants to take an orphan home for 2 weeks over Christmas to treat them and Annie gets a taste of the rich lifestyle. In that time he bonds with her and wants to adopt her but she wants to find her real parents so he sets out to do that. It’s actually originally based on a book by Thomas Meehan who based it on an American comic strip storyline. It first became a show on Broadway in 1977 that ran for nearly 6 years and has survived and thrived as a musical to this day.
With a lot of the main cast being quite young, there were 3 different options for both Annie and the other orphanage girls. Taziva-Faye Katsande, who played Annie tonight was charming and played the part with equal brashness and vulnerability present throughout different parts of the show. With her optimism ever present, she wins everyone round.
The other girls playing the orphanage crew (Team Chrysler on this occasion; Orla McDonagh, Kacey Agwuegbo, Siena Austen, Drew Phoebe Hylton, Lyla Toplass and Fifi Bloomsbury-Khier) looked like they thoroughly enjoyed themselves on stage, which always goes a long way to encourage an audience. There’s obviously the iconic, ’Hard Knock Life’ belted out by all the orphanage girls at the start while they try to look a bit menacing, but manage it in a cute way!
The famed ‘Tomorrow’ features throughout, including Annie managing to win President Roosevelt and his ministers round with it at one point.
‘I Don’t Need Anything But You’ in the second half, which is mainly sung by Mr Warbucks (Alex Bourne), was the most moving song of the night for me. It highlights how money isn’t everything in life.
Craig Revel Horwood was a great Miss Hannigan, with a stage presence akin to a pantomime dame on occasion. He had some great lines. It’s set in 1933 and when Annie was saying about how her parents left her at the orphanage in 1922 and they must be looking for her, he says they must have got stuck in traffic.
There was even a friendly dog in the show, who Annie finds when she has run away. It then appears every now and then to lots of cooing from the audience.
The show is on at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield, which is well signposted once you get close to the city centre and is fairly easy to get to. If you head to the Charles Street Q parks you get the first hour free if you get a ticket from a member of the theatre staff. The box office is by the main entrance doors and there are bars on the ground and first floors and a kiosk on the ground floor selling sweets and soft drinks. You can pre-order drinks for the interval and they come around with ice creams for sale at that point.
The stage setting started out as the dormitory of the orphanage and was cleverly changed to a variety of other settings including streets, the orphanage office, Mr Warbucks house and office. The stage sides were made up of green jigsaw pieces, which were sometimes lit up in different colours. There were a few different settings that dropped down from the eaves. All the stage changes were very smooth.
The costumes for the orphanage girls were suitably drab with other costumes being brighter and representative of the era. I have to say that the costumes for the homeless people looked rather upmarket and clean though!
I couldn’t help but think that if you translated the storyline to this day and age, no matter how much money you’ve got, there would be no way through any red tape to take a child with no parents’ home for a period of 2 weeks!
The audience was a real mix of ages, with the adults enjoying the show as much as the children. It all comes good in the end and the audience get to leave feeling all warm and fuzzy.
Tickets cost from £26 (booking fees may apply).
Annie is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 4-8 June 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000