|Date||27th January 2017|
|Society||Ballywillan Drama Group|
|Venue||Riverside Theatre, Coleraine|
|Musical Director||Eric Boyd|
|Choreographer||Sharon Logan & Victoria Lagan|
Author: Sheelagh Hobart
Director Brian Logan decided to “re-imagine” the well-loved show and I guess musical buffs have been divided in their opinions. For me, the billboard images of various professional productions of ‘Annie’ was an exciting opener but became a distraction when the (limited) props were displayed in front. I did not think that the large carved ‘W’
was enough to indicate the opulence of a billionaire’s mansion and I really missed a nice chaise-longue or sofa
for the intimate moments between Annie and Warbucks. I was, however, pleased to see the period wheelchair for President Roosevelt.
At times I wasn’t quite sure what period the action was taking place in, as costumes from Utopia were very mixed. Hair and wigs were also mixed – Annie without a red curly wig was a bit strange but I thought that Grace Farrell would have been much nicer without that blonde “Elsa” wig. Lighting and sound had a few problems too but were mostly effective.
The orphans were divided into two large teams. Team Hannigan performed on my night and I’ve no doubt that Team Warbucks was equally good. Hannah McAleenon played July, Elena Sheppard was Duffy, Evie Price
played Pepper, Erin Wilson was Tessie, Katie Mulholland played Kate and Jessica McAfee was Molly. All these orphans worked hard, backed by around 15 others, but it was sometimes difficult to spot whose line it was amongst so many! All were enthusiastic and group singing was confident. Other ensemble pieces were well handled especially “Hooverville” where one really felt the effects of The Great Depression. Warbucks large company of staff and other chorus work showed mainly good vocals - I was glad to see boys involved in the main chorus as the orphanage was girls only!
Grace Farrell, played by Niamh Rodgers, had one of the best voices on stage. She was a sympathetic but efficient character with a “will they, won’t they” hint to her relationship with her boss! Maxine McAleenan
captured the bullying nature of Miss Hannigan. When her Brother Rooster (Alan McClarty) and his girlfriend Lily St.Regis (Kellyann McKillen) arrived, their nasty side surfaced as they planned to make money out of Annie and then get rid of her. “Easy Street” is a great number that these three executed with gusto. Shea Eastwood was very much the high-class butler Drake, while Mrs Pugh (Vicky Hogg) and Mrs Greer (Audrey Hull) were lovely comfortable characters. Leon Woods portrayed the OTT radio personality Bert Healy well – he shows potential so I am glad he will be continuing his interest in performance at university. Jim Everett made a believable President Roosevelt, matching the images I have seen of him on film. There were many small parts in this show who all did their bit for the overall production, with some men taking on several roles.
Finally I come to the ‘stars’ – Richard Mairs as Oliver Warbucks and Amelia Galbraith as Annie. Richard showed a developing relationship with Amelia (Annie) while she clearly enjoyed the attention she received from Warbucks, Grace and the servants. She was very natural and related to children and adults in a lovely non-stylised way. She sang and danced confidently as did Richard in an assured performance.
The 8 piece orchestra under the baton of MD Eric Boyd was well controlled although tightly situated at stage left.
Eric needed to be sympathetic to those on stage as they have no sight of him and he did that pretty well. Sharon and Victoria’s shared choreography sometimes involved rather frenetic hand movement when large numbers were on stage. I understand Director Brian’s desire to re-interpret older shows in his own way but I missed the familiar one. However Brian directed a tight show only slowed by some longer scene changes necessitating extra cover music.