Date 28th November 2013
Society New Mills Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue New Mills Arts Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Micky Merrimen
Musical Director David Chapman
Choreographer Angela Draper


Author: Kevin Proctor

‘Annie’ is set during America’s great depression, its story features political disappointments, the hijinks of emotionally abused and angry children, alcoholism and homelessness yet what never fails to amaze me is how it’s forever being labelled as a too cheesy, overly fluffy show with a thin plot - ‘Annie’ has a dark subtext, a sturdier plot than the vast majority of musicals and a score that is bursting with Broadway charm – a classic!

Director Micky Merrimen displayed a traditional interpretation of this ever popular show. I always look for a stamp of originality, particularly with shows like these which I feel need to be given an injection of something fresh and exciting to make it stand out from the rest.

I cannot ignore that the pace dragged quite considerably in places, act one felt incredibly long and with a show that attracts young audience members, this could prove a menace to its triumph.

When presenting any piece of theatre which is based on historical events and portray real people in history, research is crucial – for example, Frances Perkins was the first female to be appointed onto the US cabinet!

I was glad to see the stage wasn’t crammed with orphans which is such a common decision (or mistake) that I see in shows which require a youth ensemble, something which is usually enforced from the committee - “the more kids that are on stage, the more tickets we’ll sell” being the usual idea – which does ring true, however, I agree that fewer orphans will work in this shows favour as far as quality is concerned.

Movement was in the hands of Angela Draper which dazzled in parts, particularly the orphans numbers which demonstrated some inspiring choreography and was competently delivered, though it was a shame the same level of passion and creativity wasn’t carried through to the general ensemble numbers which were a little static but none the less, all movement was clean and performed with vigour.

Technically, the sound proved to be an interference as many of the personal microphones kept failing and I lost count of how many ques were missed. I always feel it to be a tremendous shame when weeks of rehearsal are put into a show which becomes frustratingly impaired over something so avoidable.

It should come as no surprise that if you have a 15 piece orchestra and don’t give microphones to cast members who talk whilst the orchestra are underscoring, we’re not going to hear what they’re saying!

The orchestra, under the sturdy direction of David Chapman sounded tremendous - from the first brass solo of the Overture to the final note of the Walk Out music they were a delight! An asset to this production and indeed the society, congratulations!

The role of Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks was tackled head on by Matt Darsley, stepping into the role with only two weeks to go due to illness of the previously cast actor. Yes, he’s a little younger than you’d have expected though still believable, Matt gave a worthy and creditable interpretation of this monstrous entrepreneur whose heart is warmed by a little orphan girl – wonderfully done!

Niamh Mulvihill did a sterling job and sung with spirit as the plucky red headed orphan. The problem which I find with this role is the mistake of over-doing-it and presenting something too sweet and excessively stagey, Niamh (only slightly) leaned towards this trap but kept on the safe side for the majority and thankfully didn’t deliver an out dated Shirley Temple-esque ‘Annie’. She performed and belted out her big songs with victory!

Miss Hannigan – possibly one of the most fun roles in musical theatre history – was effortlessly delivered by Colette Desborough who had mounds of charisma which ultimately conveyed a well-rounded interpretation. Vocally; spot-on, her characterisation was well balanced as she didn’t over force the humour to get the laughs, a very easy and enjoyable performance - Grand job!

Overall, a wholesome endeavour of a well-liked classic! Congratulations New Mills!