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Annie at Birmingham Hippodrome - Review

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Will you want to see this tomorrow?
It's three and a half years since orphan Annie was peddling her smiles and optimism at Birmingham Hippodrome and she's back to lift the gloom again.

annie, birmingham hippodrome, school holidays, review
Annie is perfect for all ages

This revival of Annie is back on a UK tour and stays at Birmingham Hippodrome over the school holidays until August 11.

It's a good season to be in the city as although this show will appeal to all ages, it's a particularly good musical for children, especially if you are introducing a younger member of the family to theatre for the first time. That's because it's a story about, and starring, children that they will relate to.

It's an endearing tale about fiesty orphan Annie in 1930's New York, who hopes to one day find her parents and escape the treacherous clutches of the drunken orphanage manager Miss Hannigan.

Her luck starts to change when she gets the chance to spend Christmas with billionaire Daddy Warbucks and his staff, who take her on adventures including meeting President Roosevelt.

This UK tour of Annie is the same version that toured to Birmingham in 2015 with the welcome refreshed stage design and choreography by director Nikolai Foster. It includes making the stage a combination of a map of New York and jigsaw pieces that light up to show how Annie is trying to piece together her life.

annie, birmingham hippodrome, school holidays, review
Alex Bourne is excellent as Daddy Warbucks

Returning with the show is the impressive Alex Bourne in the role of Daddy Warbucks. He knows this role inside and out and is the highlight, especially as he has the clearest voice and diction. Other scenes without him aren't always as clear to hear.

The role of mean Miss Hannigan is famously played by a celebrity, all of which offer something slightly different to the part. Last time, in Birmingham, it was Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, whose forte was dancing.

This time around it is Jodie Prenger, who naturally excels at the singing part of the role, powerfully booming out songs Little Girls and Easy Street. Her comic timing is pretty good too when bringing to life the drunken adversary to Annie. Prenger doesn't ham it up as much as Revel Horwood did either. The Strictly judge and Lesley Joseph both appear later in the UK tour in other cities as Miss Hannigan.

annie, Jodie prenger, birmingham hippodrome, review
Jodie Prenger stars as mean Miss Hannigan

It's a slick production with big song and dance numbers that keep to the traditional version of Annie and its songs including Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don't Need Anything But You and Tomorrow.

There's tap-dancing scenes and throwbacks to the 1930's movie and radio era. In fact, there's quite a few subtle jokes for older audience members aware of pre-war America with witty comments about comedian Harpo Marx and the like.

annie, birmingham hippodrome, school holidays, review
This Annie is a traditional version set in the 1930's

One of the most tongue in cheek sections of this show is where Annie gatecrashes a cabinet meeting with President Roosevelt in Washington and manages to cheer them all up from the problems of the Depression and inspire them with the song Tomorrow to create the famous 'New Deal' for the nation.

Although it is completely ridiculous, it's also funny, and I couldn't help but imagine Annie appearing before Boris Johnson's cabinet and how they might react if she sang to them while they anguished over ongoing Brexit negotiations.

What it does portray well is how infectious Annie's optimism is, and that's not just on the President but also the Hippodrome audience. This show and it's Tony-award-winning book and score has a lovely positivity to it that leaves you thinking that maybe anything is possible.

Rating: 7/10
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Why? Let orphan Annie cheer you up in classic musical
When: Until August 11, 2019
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street, Birmingham
Cost: From £24
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