Annie

Date 3rd October 2019
Society Ellesmere Port Musical Theatre Company
Venue The Gladstone Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Rob Stevens
Musical Director Craig Price
Choreographer Rob Stevens
Producer Rob Stevens

Report

Author: Joanne Rymer

 

 

 

Set in 1930s New York during the great depression, Annie is a musical story that focuses on the typical plot line of a baddie, a fairy Godmother and a knight in shining armour who saves the day.  

Annie is, without doubt, one of the best loved musicals around. It's a perfect medley of brilliant songs and well-crafted characters that takes you through the full range of emotions.

The production is based on the book written by Thomas Meehan about the well known children’s favourite redhead orphan Annie, with lyrics and music by Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse respectively. The songs are well-known tracks such as "Hard Knock Life", "Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" and the instantly hummable "Tomorrow", are beautifully sung by the cast in this production. Congratulations to Musical Director Craig Price for a fine job. 

Well done for the splendid use of projection graphics depicting Miss Hannagan’s orphanage, Oliver Warbucks Mansion, and the White House. The New York skyline created a versatile backdrop to create Annie’s journey through the tough streets of 1930s New York, coming face to face with people who have been made homeless, as a result of the devastating economic collapse.

Although this is a light hearted musical, it has an inner core of steel in its recognition of the grim realities of life on the breadline following the Wall Street Crash. It also has a strong basis in historical accuracy in showing a wheelchair bound President Roosevelt (Jerry Fletcher) and his 'New Deal' policy to get America working again.

I felt there needed to be a little more attention given to the authenticity of 1930’s costume. Grace Farrell, Warbucks personal assistant played well by Chloe Donley would have had a business like bun not a pony tail. Confirmed bachelor Oliver Warbucks, played well by Tony Lacey, was wearing a wedding ring. It can be the little things that make a difference.

Despite the theme of the 1930s Depression era, there is much here to enjoy; the exceptionally talented children playing the orphans are entirely believable, wholly endearing and full of individuality. The actor’s saying about “never work with children or animals” doesn’t apply in Annie. In a show based around an 11 year old girl with a dog - that would hamper the telling of the story somewhat. Fortunately, the young leads on stage this evening proved conclusively why we should be so incredibly proud of the future of amateur theatre

Annie's calling card is, of course, "Tomorrow" and while often undeservedly written off as one of those throwaway musical standards, is actually a song with some rather testing notes which Sofia delivered well. Clearly someone to watch for the future

For me, the standout moment of the show is it’s a "Hard Knock Life" which sees Sofia join forces with her fellow orphans for an enthusiastic delivery of a number that I promise will be stuck in your head from the moment you hear it. Molly (Alice Edwards) gave an outstanding performance as Annie’s buddy.

Brave young Annie (Sofia Lawton) is forced to live a life of misery and torment at the orphanage of Miss Hannigan (Liz Legerton). Determined to find her real parents her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks (Tony Lacey). Spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan with brother Rooster (Chris Pacitti) and girlfriend Lily St Regis (Annie Bond) to spoil Annie’s search.

Soon Annie is ensconced in the Warbucks Mansion and, with her blunt but cute approach to life, she worms her way into the hearts of everyone working at the mansion as well as the man himself. She even has the chance to infiltrate Roosevelt’s Cabinet meeting and spread a little sunshine.

Extremely good performances here - Liz Legerton in particular as the alcoholic orphanage owner gave a compelling performance, villainous and vampish (no man is safe) delivered with well-timed humour.

Tony Lacey gives an assured performance as billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks. As Warbuck’s assistant Grace Farrell Chloe Donley is charm itself and enchanting in her singing throughout.

 

The whole hard working ensemble, both kids and adults, look as if they are having a thoroughly great time in this show and Rigby as Sandy the dog is tail waggingly good.  Rigby is a 5 year old Cavachon who has stolen all our hearts.

 

This production of Annie is, without doubt, a classy, well-staged and slick interpretation which was a delight to see.

Well done to you all.

Joanne Rymer

NODA