24th October 2019
Norbury Theatre, Droitwich
Type of Production
Vicky Lake, Jonathan Boxall-Southall & Melanie Brown
Author: Bruce Wyatt for Andy Brown
Annie is a young orphan who lives in a miserable 1930s orphanage run by the tyrannical Miss Hannigan. Dramatically her situation changes when she is selected to spend a short time at the home of a wealthy industrialist Oliver Warbucks, who seemingly cold hearted, cannot help but learn to love Annie and decides to try and help Annie find her real parents. Offering a reward, the scheming Miss Hannigan and her evil brother and his female accomplice, plan to impersonate Annie’s parents to collect the reward which puts Annie in great danger.
The band of just six players gave us a strong and tuneful overture following which the action opens at the orphanage. No holding back as the orphans sing a well-rehearsed ‘Hard Knock Life’. Red headed Annie, on the evening I attended, was played with great presence by Darcie Ella Eglesfield. Darcie had an engaging smile throughout and sang all her numbers very well and her relationship with Oliver Warbucks was warm and believable. The orphans consisted of two teams and I understand Emily Tennant from the other team was equally as good as Annie. A very young Molly played by Tallula Rose Eglesfield, one to look out for in future, had great expression and musicality, although she was occasionally overpowered by the musical underscore.
There was no doubt that Jonathan Boxall-Southall as Miss Hannigan had a great voice and presence to match as she berated the orphans, but I personally found the smart costumes, heels and heavy make-up more a kin to pantomime which for me detracted, rather than an alternative inebriated dressed-down character. That aside, Jonathan gave a slick performance.
When Annie escaped from the orphanage in search of her parents, she comes across a stray dog she calls Sandy. ‘Bertie’ definitely had the ‘R’ factor, could not have been more natural and wagged his tail continuously when-ever on stage. The company number ‘Hooverville’ was strong, well costumed although I felt they all looked too tidy and clean for this scene, but otherwise the costumes throughout were excellent.
Grace Farrell employed by Oliver Warbucks to find an orphan was played by Vicky Lake, who in-fact fulfilled the role with grace, and a splash of great style. Oliver Warbucks was played effortlessly by Keith Thompson. Keith gave a very natural performance, business like, yet very sensitive as his relationship with Annie grew. The numbers ‘Something Was Missing’ and ‘I Don’t Need Anything But You’ were particular highlights.
Seeing an opportunity for a quick buck, Rooster and Lily St Regis, played by Sam Jeffrey and Eleanor Bates, work well together as the evil pair and their number with Miss Hannigan ‘Easy Street’ was well rehearsed. Their return impersonating Annie’s parents was awkwardly transparent – just right.
There was a host of other characters, including Bert Healy (Jake Jones), The Boylan Sisters (Karen McCracken, Merie Eglesfield & Grace Duggan), Drake (Matthew Jeffrey), Franklin D Roosevelt (Graeme Sinclair) and Mrs Pugh /Perkins (Vicky Moloney) who all gave great support backed by a competent ensemble.
The set and lighting were simple but very effective. The New York sky-line and star cloth set the atmosphere and other scenes were depicted by a few simple pieces of furniture which was quite sufficient. Scene changes were therefore smooth and efficient and covered by music which I always prefer. This show deserved their full houses - Congratulations to Director Melanie Brown.