1-6 February 2016
Reviewed by Katy Nettleton
“Annie, the world’s favourite family musical, starring Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan!
Set in the 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is force to live a life of misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Determind to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s Search.
With its award-winning book and score, this stunning new production includes the unforgettable songs Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow.”
So Annie is a well-known musical both to the west end, and on DVD that brings back your childhood memories of watching it in Black and White (yes I am old!) on a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV with my family (well for me it does) and this musical did not disappoint. This was the first time I had been to the Regent Theatre and found all the staff helpful and happy as well as knowledgeable about the show and “Team Tiffany” – there are 3 leads who are playing Annie and her supporting “kids” which made me wonder how different would each show be? Is the standard the same across all of the shows over the week? If I am completely honest I think they all would be excellent and finally tuned, from the syncing of dancing, harmonies and actions to deliver a musical of outstanding quality.
There was (as with most musicals) a slight artistic licence and for me Mrs Hannigan (played by Lesley Joseph) was not at “scary” as portrayed in other films I have seen, but again this is just my personal take and I have not watched the recent Annie film to be able to compare from my childhood memories. If I am being overly critical I found it strange that Mrs Hannigan had an American accent when talking however when singing there was a “cockney twang” – but again this did not make me enjoy the production any less.
The Homeless Crew were difficult to here with their speaking lines which I think was just down to microphones but did make it a little distracting when you are trying to follow the story as well as musical numbers.
But, hats off to the young performers. The standard of the Kids and Annie was amazing, you could not fault them at all. At times there was a little too much overacting, however this is what Annie is about (for me anyway) and made you stand back every time one of the young performers sang. I am inspired by them; they obviously love what they are doing, practice and are driven with voices of angels and makes me wish I could sing (even a little bit like them!). Annie played by Madeleine Haynes was exceptional, the way in which she moved seamlessly between scenes and as her role progressed so did she with confidence which I think brought the True Annie to life; a vulnerable young girl who dreamt of being loved and would not stop until she found it. I was soon singing along to the traditional songs of Hard Knock Life, Maybe, I think I’m going to Like it Here, Tomorrow (to name a few) and could feel hope, pain, fear, love and friendship throughout the play.
Daddy Warbucks (played by Alex Bourne) was as expected, exceptional and portrayed confidence and self-assurance in all his scenes, my only slight negative thoughts were around his relationship with Grace Farell. From watching old films I expected Grace and Daddy to fall in love and for her to become Mummy to Annie, however this was vaguely alluded to however there did not feel to be any chemistry between the characters and that it was not a truly happy ending (as I had expected). Again, this may be me over thinking the musical and what I had expected and is only one small element of the 2 hour long production.
The staging was excellent and the way in which the scenes were seamlessly linked and Sandy the dog played her part brilliantly! I loved how she ran across the stage in between scenes implying that she was looking for Annie and wanted freedom.
Overall I would give the play 4.5 out of 5 and would recommend it to anyone and I look forward to going back to the Regent Theatre to see more productions.
Tickets cost from £12.50 to £44.50 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Annie is at the Regent Theatre in Stoke until 6 February 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 7649
Regent Theatre, Piccadilly, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 1AP | 0844 871 7649