“dazzling, dynamic, energetic and entertaining”
Although Annie is such a classic musical, would you believe me if I said I had never seen it and didn’t really know the story? My memory of the show comes from being in a school production of the show in year five, and flashbacks from the film.
Either way, I was so excited to see this production and I was certainly not disappointed.
If you don’t know (like I didn’t), Annie tells the story of a girls’ orphanage run by the mean mistress Miss Hannigan. Lucky orphan Annie gets chosen by billionaire Oliver Warbucks to spend Christmas with him. Through twists and turns invovling a gorgeous dog Sandy, one broken locket and Annie’s family, a happy ending is guaranteed.
I can honestly say that I can’t remember the last time I saw a production where every single cast member was not only perfectly cast, but also did an amazing job in their role. The cast was led by Strictly Come Dancing Judge Craig Revel-Horwood as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan and boy did he do a good job. I had no idea he had a background in musical theatre but he was brilliant in all three disciplines of singing, acting and dancing (the latter hardly being a surprise).
Craig Revel-Horwood, I assume, made some differences in his performance to other female actresses who play the role in lowering the key of some of his songs, but it worked perfectly. His comedy was fantastic, his stage presence was second-to-none and his interaction with others on stage, particularly the children, was very believable.
Carolyn Maitland and Alex Bourne in the roles of Grace Farrell and Daddy Warbucks respectively were also outstanding. Each of the two had perfect vocals and their characters were fully-fleshed out through briliant acting and engagements with other characters.
Jenny Gayner and Richard Meek in the villanous roles of Lily and Rooster were also infectiously enjoyable on stage, and in their trio with Craig Revel-Horwood for the song Easy Street, I found myself smiling from ear-to-ear; I was thoroughly enjoying myself!
I feel I could list the whole ensemble of this show who made it what it was, but special mentions have to go to Caroline Bateson as Mrs Greer, Gary Davis as Franklin Roosevelt, Andy Barke as Drake and Susannah Van Den Berg as Mrs Pugh who gave eye-catching and memorable performances.
Of course the children were also hugel likeable and incredibly talented, but again special mentions have to go to Kacey Agwuegbo as Duffy and Zara Bench as Molly for this evening’s performance who were powerful on stage and gave especially good performances.
Last but not least, the star of the show Mia Lakha completely blew me away. I am often dubious of shows with a child lead (Matilda and Billy Elliot for example), but I needn’t have worried. The vocals that Mia Lakha had were mind-blowing, and during her first solo of Maybe, she really shone and the audience knew they were in for a treat. Much like the rest of the cast, Mia Lakha was a triple threat as her acting was impressive, as were her natural dancing abilities. According to other cast members, Mia has not rehearsed the role for long, but it’s clear that she smashed it. This young lady is one to watch in years to come ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here first.
I really don’t think I can fault anything in this performance. The show was dazzling, dynamic, energetic and entertaining. There was a perfect combination of moving solos, high-spirited dance numbers, comedy, and the just-right amount of political undertone to make a well-rounded show. The auditorium was packed full of people of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents, this is a show for all to enjoy. There are certainly some scenes that are made for adults, but just when you think children might start to lose interest, another flashy dance number is inserted perfectly into the narrative to keep everyone entertained, as if the writers knew exactly what audiences might be thinking.
There were definitely times when I struggled to understand the diction of the children, but I think that’s something you have to take with a pinch of salt when you see a children-led show.
Every number in the show was perfectly choreographed, perfectly delivered and perfectly enjoyable. I was having such a good time that I really wanted to jump out my seat and join in with the performance…maybe next time?!
With catchy tunes, and even more impressive stage visuals, I highly recommend seeing this world-class production in a city near you. Annie continues to play at Wales Millennium Centre until 31 August, before heading to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Sunderland and more on its UK Tour.