Reviewed by Joanna Woodburn
Put on your very best smile for an evening of optimism and joy – the outstanding family show Annie is on tour and playing at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent. This well-loved musical will have audiences wanting to jump on the stage and join in!
The official tour trailer for Annie, advertises this ‘glorious revival’ (The Times) and stars Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph. It is colourful, dynamic and incorporates excerpts from the fantastic musical score, which whets one’s appetite in anticipation of the showing at the Regent Theatre.
The Regent Theatre originally opened in 1929 as a super cinema. It reopened in 1999 following a £23 million development of the city centre and is now a number one touring venue, playing host to a the very best in drama, musicals, opera and dance.
The theatre is a majestic and stylish venue. With its impressive dome and beautiful décor, seats are most comfortable and there is ample leg room. Staff certainly go the extra mile to look after their patrons. The John Street multi story car park is only a few minutes away, with very reasonable, well-lit parking after 6 pm and there is disabled parking opposite the theatre.
Annie is based on “Little Orphan Annie” (Tribune Media Services Inc.) from the novel by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin. This musical was originally produced by Irwin Meyer, Stephen R Friedman, Lewis Allen, Alvin Nederlander Associates Inc., Icarus Productions and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
As the story unfolds the audience are entertained with colourful scenes, impressive choreography and some cracking dance routines including NYC. Annie is an excellent example of musical theatre with a sparkling score for all to enjoy. This foot-tapping performance is spiritually enlightened by the sheer quality of the musical experience!
It is set in New York, in the 1930s, during The Great Depression, where young Annie is living a miserable life at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Fortunately, her life changes for the better when she’s selected by a famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, to join him for an amazing Christmas. In the meantime, Miss Hannigan, an unkind character, intends to disrupt Annie’s plan to find her real family.
As the show develops, the auditorium are treated to the unforgettable songs ‘Hard-Knock Life’, ‘Easy Street’ and ‘Tomorrow’ – such a perfect medley feast that anybody who enjoys musicals will love!
The cast of 40 strong include Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan and Alex Bourne as Daddy Warbucks. On Monday evening, Mia Lakha played Annie and the six orphan children were from Team Chrysler, with cute canine Amber as Sandy.
This talented ensemble are well-up to the challenge of excelling in their delivery of this fine show to any audience who are fortunate to witness this musical extravaganza! They are all determined in their art, combining very well to present an outstanding and enthusiastic performance for all to enjoy.
Lesley Joseph draws on her brilliant comic timing and brilliant dry humour to bring life to her boozed-up character with style. She truly throws herself into the part and audiences will love her.
Mia Lakha gives an astounding performance as Annie. Strong and yet endearing, note perfect and charming, she exudes star quality.
Alex Bourne brings so much to the part of Daddy Warbucks – he displays his rich baritone voice especially in ‘Something Was Missing’ and ‘I Don’t Need Anything But You’.
His Girl Friday assistant Grace Farrell, played by Carolyn Maitland, is his equal in the vocal stakes, playing the role impeccably.
Annie’s orphan friends, Team Chrysler, should also be commended, it is a sheer joy to see youngsters with such talent, energy and passion.
Richard Meek (Miss Hannigan’s brother Rooster) and the delightful Jenny Gayner (Rooster’s girlfriend Lily) act as fraudsters Mr and Mrs Mudge, in their quest to gain a $50,000 reward from Warbucks for being Annie’s real parents. Their feisty banter and humorous actions really adds to the show.
The staging of Annie is extremely effective with colourful, stunning sets, designed to add to the slickness of the production. With great pace, laughter and vigour, encouraging the audience to contribute to the musical by singing along to the fabulous songs.
Should you see Annie? Yes, most definitely! Tomorrow will certainly feel a lot better after seeing this feel-good show!
Huge congratulations to the cast and production team. It runs at the Regent Theatre until Saturday 23 November.
Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Annie at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent from 18-23 November 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/regent-theatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7649.
Regent Theatre, Piccadilly, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 1AP | 0844 871 7649