WhatTheatres & Shows
16 Denman Street, London,
23 May – 6 January
The spunky, red-headed heroine of 1930s' New York and the wicked Miss Hannigan are back in the West End.
Editor Emily took her son Jimmy.
"The story of little orphan Annie was first a musical hit in the 70s and came from Broadway to London in 1978. I am old enough to remember being properly scared by a spikily villainous Sheila Hancock in that production. The hype this time round has been Miranda Hart's casting in the role and Jimmy, aged 12, (along with a sizeable portion of our audience) is a big Miranda fan. He had no knowledge of the storyline though and didn't know any of the tunes.
The set is fantastic. Six stark orphanage beds frame a tall wonky door. The surround is made up from pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that serve multiple purposes - lights, a map of Manhattan - while at the same time giving a sense both of disconnection and putting together of the pieces. The junior cast (there are three teams that rotate) of raggle taggle orphans were uniformly excellent and the opening rendition of 'It's a Hard Knock Life' slick and fun. Our Annie was Madeleine Hayes. Her confidence increased in the second act, her vocals are strong; we were definitely rooting for her though she didn't quite hold the stage enough to make us love her. 'Tomorrow' is a belter of a tune which she sings twice - once solo and once with grown ups. And good though it was, there were no tears in my eyes.
She is given strong support by her greasy conman brother, Jonny Fines, and his fabulously sleazy girlfriend, Djalenga Scott. Their rendition of Easy Street is one of the show's highlights. Alex Bourne too as Annie's millionaire saviour who rediscovers his heart through a young child melts effectively and Jimmy, as he should, was dazzled by Holly Dale Spencer, Warbucks' secretary and the putative mother figure.
I read the programme with Jimmy beforehand and there is a good article explaining about the historical context of the Great Depression, FDR and the New Deal. I would recommend doing this as it is a good lesson in 20th century American politics. We went to see it the night before Election Day and there is lots of resonance today; provided you don't take it too literally. It is a fairytale. The FBI is taken off the 'Capone case' to look for Annie's parents; a multi-millionaire and his young ward have the ear of the President of the USA.
Above all, it is a celebration of New York City, of hope out of hardship, a triumph of optimism. You cannot help but be won over. Go!!!"
23 May – 6 January