Annie

Date 18th May 2016
Society BANOS Musical Theatre
Venue Adrian Mann Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Dawn
Musical Director Francis Griffin
Choreographer Dawn

Report

Author: Jon Fox

The story of orphan Annie is a well loved one with a strong story, many catchy songs and set in New York during the thirties depression. We open the story in 1933 with a feisty, optimistic eleven years old orphan Annie determined to escape the clutches of the orphanage in order to find her parents, whom she believes are both alive. Emilia Aris played Annie with a skill and stage presence most unusual in one so young. She had, to my ears, an authentic sounding American accent and on her small frame depended the success or otherwise of this production. Emilia was very well cast and must surely be very proud of what she achieved. Confidence was exuded and  she will surely go far on stage.

Monica Turnbull was a marvellous Miss Hannigan, the perfect antidote to the optimism of Annie.   A  mostly drunken and uncaring character totally uninterested in the children in her care. When she got her come-uppance later in the show, I felt mixed emotions: relief that she was punished, but sorry to have lost the splendid Monica from the stage. A highly charismatic and convincing actress who could act, sing and dance and proceeded to do them all extremely well.

The orphans were probably the best "set" I have seen on the amateur stage.I list their various characters and can say that each and every one, with their diverse personalities, made a huge contribution to the show. Their cleaning routines were well choreographed and carried out. Well done girls.

Molly               Katherine Warr
Pepper           Sophie Goulder-Perks
Duffy               Scarlett Swaine
July                  Eve Smith
Tessie              Amy Cleather
Kate                Bibi Jackson
Alice               Lucy North
Beth                Gabriella Taborelli
LouLou           Elena Taborelli
Pippa              Eva Kennedy

Colin Bousfield was the popular laundryman Bundles McCloskey in whose hamper Annie made her escape. His optimistic and cheery personality contrasted well with the low life one of Aggie Hannigan. Colin also played a cheery Jimmy Johnson in the radio scene and Harold Ickes the  most animated of President Roosevelt's cabinet. He possessed one of the better American accents in the show.

Roger Gibbs was Lt. Ward suspicious of Annie and her "ownership" of the cute stray dog, Sandy, played by Delta. Roger was also Louis Howe in the Roosevelt cabinet and Fred McCracken with Wacky the puppet in the engaging radio scene and did well in all these cameos.

Toby Jones was the seedy conman Daniel "Rooster" Hannigan, brother to the awful Aggie and was a great success in this important role. His pious "Ralph Mudge" was a beautiful contrast to the brash Rooster. Together with Claire Weston as Rooster's "flaunt it" girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Annie Mudge) and Monica as Aggie, these three talented players portrayed the unpleasant plotters with bravado and cunning. They sang and danced the wonderful "Easy Street" (the best song in the show for my money) with polish. Claire also appeared as "Star to be" in the Radio scene.

When Tim Evans appeared as Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, he proceeded to dominate the stage thereafter. His was, in all respects, a professional standard performance. He looked the part and acted with a rare nuanced skill. His two solos, Something was Missing and the later addition Why should I change a Thing,  were both show highlights. Moreover, he had a resonant and melifluous singing voice together with an accurate New York accent. His tenderness with Annie and gradual change into a real and very vulnerable human was moving and powerful. Tim has played this part thrice before and one can understand why!

The elegant Melanie Beggs gave us a patient and tough Grace Farrell as his secretary. Her no-nonsense approach to Miss Hannigan, when arranging for Warbucks' adoption of Annie, was a typical example of the compassion mixed with authority of the character.

Steve Clemo provided a sure footed Drake, the English Butler. Sue Massingham was the redoubtable Mrs Pugh (and also Sophie in Hooverville) and carried a natural stage presence.    Anne Bland Botham was a most suitable Mrs Greer. Karen Kain and Tiffanie Beggs were Annette and Cecille respectively, two "obviously" French maids.

The radio scene was completed by a most enjoyable performance from Dalton Leong in a snazzy green and white blazer as extrovert Bert Healy (another good accent) and the buxom and brash Boylan sisters in their sparkly dresses - Rosalind Copeland, Denize Goulder-Perks and Alma Griffith. Dalton Leong also played Justice Brandeis in the final denouement of the fraudulent Mudges.

The other members of Roosevelt's Cabinet not previously mentioned - Cordell Hull (Peter Martin), Francis Perkins (Letitia Newton), Henry Morgenthau (Roy Comber), Homer S Cummings (David Hadrill) and Daniel C. Roper (Kim Jones) - were all suitably  pessimistic, then animated when proposing the famous New Deal. John Daniels had suitable gravitas as President Roosevelt, playing the part in a vintage wheelchair. Tiffanie Beggs was the Presidential Secretary.

Chorus work was generally most effective, none better than in the atmospheric "Hooverville", where the cold and hungry citizens (all wearing hats, mufflers, heavy coats etc.) raged most effectively against Herbert Hoover, the soon to be outgoing President.

The sets were well above average standard, especially the Warbucks mansion and were changed quickly apart from scenes involving the problem with the awful lack of wing space. I have performed on this stage and know the difficulties it can cause.

Lighting design and operation by David Boyd was cleverly used to enhance the atmosphere of the show. Costume and hairstyles, including wigs, were accurate for the thirties period.

Musical Director Francis Griffin with his band of three on keyboard, reeds (various) and trumpet  achieved a good and balanced sound and the best possible vocally from the company.

Director and choreographer Dawn can feel well pleased with the fare she and her dedicated company provided.