Date 6th October 2021
Society Spennymoor Stage and Song
Venue Spennymoor Town Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director Eric Hickson
Musical Director Lee Brannigan
Choreographer Ann-Marie Clayton & Stacey Thompson


Author: Helen Abraham

It was my absolute delight to attend the very first performance since being appointed in post as regional representative 13 months ago and I could not have hoped for a warmer welcome than was received from Spennymoor Stage and Song.  A lovely group, kind, talented and welcoming and their long waited, twice postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, production of "Annie" was the very first which made it to the stage in District 4 so well done to them.  I absolutely loved it!  Due to the requirements of their children’s performance licence there were two teams of orphans taking part, and I had the pleasure of seeing the "Song" group with Lucy Wilkinson taking the titular lead of "Annie", supported by the wonderful Lila-Rose Routledge, Tiffany Holliday, Megan Jones, Scarlett Revell, Elsie England and Lottie Ward.  All orphans were absolutely fabulous, sincere and a pleasure to see on stage.  Lucy has a lovely strong voice which under the very capable hands of Lee Brannigan lead us through "Maybe" and "Tomorrow" beautifully with a sincerity rarely seen in one her age, well done Lucy.  The end "Maybe" where she is staring wistfully away dreaming of who her parents could be was so authentic.  I also found myself praying that the brave Lila-Rose in "Hard Knock Life" didn't fall of one of the beds she was jumping on!  All of the children on stage acted in a manner far more mature than their years, well done to all of you.

The production was slick, well-rehearsed and authentic under the expert eye of the very experienced director Eric Hickson who also made the stage as the devoted and unflappable Drake, and I loved the cabriole following Annie's adoption news - good height on that Eric!  Eric was assisted by Liam Etherington in bringing the production to life.

I also loved Ann-Marie Clayton in the role of Miss Hannigan.  Ann-Marie is an incredibly talented performer and has a trait rarely seen at times in those who take leading principal parts in that she has absolutely no idea just how good she actually is.  She has such a strong vocal ability, coupled with being a talented actor, dancer and has comedy timing to perfect her roles.  Very well played Ann-Marie - more gin for Hannigan I say however!

Wendy Hindmarsh as Grace Farrell had just the right balance of glamour and a beautiful clear singing voice I would have really liked to hear more of.  She gave just the right believable level of professionalism and sincerity with her handing of Annie and of the formidable Daddy Warbucks played well by Ian Patterson.   Stacey Thompson as Lily St-Regis was superb; her mannerisms and character performance during "Easy Street" were excellent and really brought Lily's character to life- really well done Stacey.  The choreography on Easy Street with Miss Hannigan and Liam Etherington as Rooster Hannigan was also excellent, simple yet effective, slick and I really enjoyed watching that number with these three extremely talented performers.  Their friendship and comfort being on stage together was very much apparent and really gave it that something special.  Liam's characterisation of Rooster really gave the character a little something more than you tend to see in an amateur production.

A special mention must go to the absolute legend that is George Morgan-Watson.  Unfortunately Covid-19 took out a member of the cast who had to isolate during the show week and with only one day's notice George stepped into the role of Bert Healey as well as a number of supporting roles such as Bundles.  You would never have guessed had you not been informed this had taken place.  George handled it like a professional; he was charismatic, engaging, had fantastic stage presence in every role, did not in any way seem flustered by the sudden additional responsibility, he carried the various parts he played with ease and all entirely differently on stage - a true skill.  Well done George - now that's true teamwork and professionalism.  Kudos to you.  I especially loved the banter between Bert and the sound operator during "Never Fully dressed" though I was concerned the orchestra may end up with a shoe in the pit with the pick and mix!

The orchestra was well rehearsed, slick and not overpowering despite being sat right next to them so well done to the musicians, Jill Jackson, David Johnson, Peter Ross and Bob Stephenson lead by Lee Brannigan.  Sound and light were effective and clear, thanks to the skills of Terry Cain and I was staggered to realise that Eric paints all of his own backcloths!  They were marvellous so I'd definitely recommend other groups bear Spennymoor in mind for hires for future productions as I'm told there is a substantial back catalogue.

All in all - I loved it!   Well done Spennymoor Stage and Song and thank you for making my very first review in role such a delightful positive one.  I can't wait to see you all again for Robinson Crusoe in January and Anything Goes in April 2022.