Annie

Date 7th November 2012
Society The East Cheshire Musical Theatre Company
Venue Garrick Playhouse
Type of Production Musical
Director Adam Whittle
Musical Director David Dossett
Choreographer Sally Hilliard & Heidi Fletcher

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

This rags to riches tale is based on ‘The Little Orphan Annie’ cartoon series, so popular with Americans during the dark days of the depression which still hits the mark in these troubled times. Created by playwright Thomas Meehan and composer Charles Strouse, it's the sheer determination of the plucky little orphan girl to make the best of every situation which not only inspires New York's homeless but President Roosevelt's Cabinet as well.

First seen on stage in 1977, Annie was later followed by two film adaptations, the first being the glossy Hollywood version throwing it - head first - into the commercial ‘Annie’ we all recognise today! Then, Disney got a hold of it and rather than adding Disney layers, surprisingly, it was presented almost as a humble salute to the original stage show with the original Annie making an appearance as ‘the star to be’.

In shows like this, the more robust and energetic the Kids are, the better - and with these girls we had it in spades. Iris Collier as Molly was bursting with charisma, was fearless, hilarious and just brilliant, she’s one to watch.

The troupe handled ‘Hard Knock Life’ with attack, anger and heaps of energy! The only criticism I can give for the orphans is to cut the screams, girls screaming down microphones will only ever hurt – and it did!

Now, Lorna Richardson as Annie (the second time I’ve seen and in fact reviewed her in this role) did an outstanding job, she sang her very difficult songs with ease and belt! During ‘Tomorrow’ you could hear the audience gasp in awe. Lorna received well-deserved cheers and applause after each of her numbers which were all on top form. She supports well with vocal technique, her acting was nicely understated and very sweet – what more can I say, the star of the show – again!

The Sets were lovely and simple, the brown dreariness of the orphanage was nicely offset by the green and gold opulence of the Warbuck’s mansion.

It’s clear that Director Adam Whittle does not like to use half a stage at any point, as much as a nightmare for the crew this may be. I appreciate first-hand the loathing directors have of half cloths or tabs - but - bringing some of the action downstage to enable set to be switched behind would have sped up those changeovers,  doing more in the shows favour than the harm of bringing the action downstage. Each scene was set to a good pace, I particularly enjoyed the Cabinet scene which was given a fresh angle. I cannot deny that this show looked great, also aided with choreography by duo Sally Hilliard & Heidi Fletcher.

The orchestra, under the direction of Dave Dossett were terrific – I love this score and they did it credit. The sound levels did make them sound a bit tinny, we could’ve done with the reverb up a few notches but I cannot put these balance issues down to Dave. The company singing sounded full, a super job from the MD!

Alexandra Howarth gave us a sufficient Grace Farrell, she had the right qualities of Grace but I felt her engagement with the other characters, particularly Warbucks was undeveloped.

Miss. Hannigan - the alcoholic orphanage matron – played by Krysy Hood gave the stereotypical Hannigan you’d expect, she gave us a few chuckles and her performance was plenty. To be successfully comical in this sort of role an audience needs to be able to believe her, portraying too much of a caricature is difficult to connect with which will drown out a lot of the deeper humour.

Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks  played by David Gonet was good, he ‘Rex Harrisoned’ a lot during his songs but you can forgive this for a character such as his. We could’ve done with more of the scary, hard as nails entrepreneur about him to begin with which would’ve been nice to see soften as he attaches himself to Annie. But still, a well delivered performance.

Matthew Darsley really goes to town on the cartoon villainy as Rooster which worked really well, his Mr. Mudge was enjoyed by all. Vocally, Matthew was on the mark and achieved an accomplished performance!

Excellent cameos too from Willie Lees as Drake (shame about the lack of shiny shoes though!), Keith Hanks as Roosevelt and Jonathan Harman-Craddock as Bert Healey, all providing first-rate support to the principals!

Congratulations to the team at East Cheshire’s on a well delivered production!