Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Big Production Of Family Favourite Musical Touring UK
Annie has seen quite a resurgence in recent years with the hip-hop influenced film starring Cameron Diaz and now this new version touring the UK starring Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood.
Craig Revel Horwood as never seen before.
Revel-Horwood is quite a pull for audiences, relishing the chance to see if he ends up being the kind of "dee-sa-ster" that he moans about emphatically on the BBC1 TV show.
Instead, he's the star of the show, making the most of his pantomime-esque bad guy reputation to channel that into a drunken, mean but surprisingly light-footed Miss Hannigan.
He looks OK in a dress, acts and sings well and dances even better. His songs Little Girls and Easy Street are among the most memorable sections of the show. A-ma-ZING, darling, in Revel-Horwood's own words.
It's a hard knock life for Annie in the new UK tour of the famous musical
Annie is currently touring the UK and I caught the show at Birmingham Hippodrome, where it stays from October 13 to 31. It coincides with the production just picking up six nominations in the Broadway World UK Awards including Best New Production of a Musical.
The storyline has kept to the traditional script so, like the original, it's set in 1930's New York during The Great Depression with a red-headed sprightly orphan Annie winning over billionaire Oliver Warbucks and even President Roosevelt with her optimism.
What's been refreshed by director Nikolai Foster is the set design and choreography, which pumps new energy into the musical. It has a cleverly crafted stage featuring a map of New York and jigsaw pieces that light up to depict how Annie is trying to piece together pieces of her life.
Annie is a big stage production
The show opens in the dark and stark setting of the orphanage and jumps straight into the song Maybe. With an institutionalised workhouse look about it, the orphanage has overhanging lights and rows of beds and, later, sewing machines.
Meanwhile, on the slums of New York it's a similar scene of glum misery and the dance sequences have a Bob Fosse feel and look about them.
In contrast, Annie's stay at Daddy Warbucks' golden embossed apartment is full of light and pastel shages with maids and servants welcoming her in a scene that reminded me of 'Be Our Guest' in Beauty and The Beast.
For those who don't know the story, it follows orphan Annie, who lives a life of misery and torment with her fellow orphans at the hands of the nasty orphanage patron Miss Hannigan. With only a locket and note as clues to her real parents, she sets off to find them and ends up making a new friend in Sandy the dog and getting chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Warbucks.
A journey of music and love with orphan Annie
The musical's award-winning book and score features timeless songs like Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don't Need Anything But You and Tomorrow. These are given the best show possible by a talented cast, particularly the younger members of the crew.
There are three children playing Annie and in the version I saw, Sophia Pettit played the lead with extreme confidence. She may have been slight but she could really belt out a tune.
Elsewhere, it was refreshing to see that Revel-Horwood isn't just in the show to add a few laughs, he's also got some meaty song and dance scenes. For those of you seeing the show on "Strictly Saturdays", his part will be played by a replacement - Lesley Joseph from Birds Of A Feather while it is in Birmingham.
Alex Bourne playing Daddy Warbucks is also a class act. He has a natural chemistry with Pettit, which makes the show flow well. Bourne has a history of being a safe pair of hands in theatre and has just come out of Trevor Nunn's version of Kiss Me Kate at The Old Vic, where his performance was nominated for an Olivier Award.
Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly Come Dancing stars in Annie
I did wonder why the producers had made such an effort to keep Sandy the dog in this production as he hardly appears on stage. Instead, he sporadically runs across stage at various scene changes and doesn't feature in this musical as much as he did in the film. That said, every brief appearance seem to prompt a loving sigh from the dog lovers and children in the audience, so Sandy is an obvious crowd-pleaser.
This version of Annie is a big, slick production that has toe-d the line between keeping the traditional storyline and songs of the original while updating it with a bit more originality.
While it doesn't feel as fresh and modern as the recent film with Jamie Foxx in 21st Century NYC, it's got the essence of the classic musical that became a family favourite.