The Opera House takes you back to your childhood this month as Annie comes to town turning Manchester into 1930s Brooklyn. Since it opened on Broadway in 1977 the hit musical has enjoyed huge success both onstage and onscreen with 2 films versions being made, the most recent with Will Smith’s daughter Willow cast as the title role.
It tells the tale of eleven year old orphan (Annie) who is hoping her parents will come back to claim her from the orphanage they left her at when she was a baby. Made to clean floors and eats scraps by the cruel orphanage owner Miss Hannigan, Annie gets finally her ticket out of there when billionaire Mr Warbucks chooses her to stay with him over Christmas. As the pair form a close bond Warbucks looks into seeing if he can adopt Annie and give her the home she deserves.
A star is born in Madeleine Haynes who takes on the lead as Annie. The pint-sized performer commands the stage at all times, displaying guts and punch a-plenty. I defy anyone to not get goosebumps as Haynes belts out a passionate Tomorrow – to coin an overused X-Factor phrase she really did ‘make it her own’.
In recent years the part of Miss Hannigan has turned from less of a drunk and more of a drag, being played by a number of male celebrities such as Paul O’ Grady who starred in the West End run. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I like the twist or what it adds to the show, apart confusing little audience members, prompting explanations as to ‘why is the man on stage wearing a dress and pretending to be a woman?’
In the Annie UK Tour the audience is treated to Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood as Hannigan (with Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph taking over later in the run). Although Horwood gives Hannigan a decent stab he fails to really make the impact you could with the gin-swiggin, little girl hating role.
The same can’t be said of both Alex Bourne and Jonny Fines who do sterling jobs as ‘Daddy’ Warbucks and Rooster respectively. Bourne strikes up a great chemistry with Haynes as the wannabe father and daughter duo and Fines gives Rooster a sinister streak that verges on manic.
Colin Richmond’s stylised set, made up of disconnected jigsaw pieces, captures the atmosphere perfectly highlighting the complex puzzle that is young Annie’s life. There’s also some great direction from Nikolai Foster who has managed to retain the period of the piece but somehow brought it into the twentieth century with a comic book style and stunning choreography.
Highlights include a rousing version of It’s The Hard Knock Life by the orphans, played by a team of talented young girls with plenty of girl power. Plus watch out for a cute cameo where real life dog Amber plays stray Sandy, who despite probably only being on stage for a couple of minutes, manages to draw ‘aahs’ and ‘oohs’ a plenty.
Annie is a real feel good show which will enthral and entertain and manages to bring the silver screen to life right before your eyes so ‘betcha bottom dollar you will have a great night!