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Annie Warbucks

Date

17th November 2017

Society

Lancaster Red Rose Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society

Venue

Lancaster Grand Theatre

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Vanessa Whittle

Musical Director

Anna Eddowes-Scott

Choreographer

Vanessa Whittle

Report

Author: Martin Craig

Annie Warbucks  is the follow up/ sequel musical to Annie, starting at the same point the original finished with the song, “A New Deal for Christmas”. It`s  Christmas morning in 1933, when Child Welfare Commissioner Harriet Doyle arrives on the scene to inform Oliver Warbucks that he has illegally  adopted Annie and must marry within sixty days or else Annie will be returned to the orphanage. Ignoring the (not so) subtle hints from his staff and Annie that his long-time assistant, Grace would be the perfect match for both “Daddy Warbucks” and Annie, Warbucks goes on whirlwind search for a fitting bride. Thinking that he`s found the right one, he gets set to marry the perfect woman for him…… or is she? With plot twists, Annie running away (again), the return of Franklin D Roosevelt, singing and dancing kids a plenty and a dog, you know it will all have a happy ending. If you thought the original Annie was sickly sweet, then you`d better take your insulin shot before watching this one.

Any production of Annie needs great performer in the title role if it is to succeed-and on the night I saw it, Annie was just that, played splendidly by Matilda Gebhardt, belting out her songs with gusto, singing, dancing, smiling  and seamlessy slotting in with everyone around her. I have been reliably informed by friends and other sources that Jessica Davies, who played Annie in alternate performances was every bit as well- well done.

Chris Isherwood played Oliver Warbucks with a laid back charm, warmth and humour – especially when trying to pick a date in an era when you couldn`t just swipe left or right. Chris`s rich vocals added to the warmth and slight vulnerability of his character- great performance, also showing he can bust some moves too!

Faye Cooper played Grace Farrell, oozing sophistication, style and, forgive the pun, grace. Her undisclosed love for Daddy Warbucks came over really well- her hanging on his every word whilst onstage together, and those wistful looks- marvellous.

Ceri Hamer played the overbearing Commissioner Doyle with the despotic fervour required for the role, smoothly changing character when nobody but her daughter was around- their duet, “Leave it to the girls” sounded great!

Holly Brown, as Mrs Kelly was excellent, her chameleon-like changing from downtrodden, vulnerable, unassuming lady to a deliciously wicked villain, (with facial expressions to match every mood)  would have made Cruella de Ville proud- her sassiness throughout, and her solo, “But you go on”- building from embers to full on inferno being one of the highlights of the show for me.

Simon Whitehead, Mrs Pugh and Drake were played with experienced self-assurance by Simon Yaxley, Isabel Elamir  and Ryan Fisher- Ryan`s unflappable butler having some of the best lines in the show, delivered with expert timing.

The Paterson family Annie meets while on the run, Ella (Karen Fay), Alvin T (Steve Johnson) and CG (Sasha Davis on the night I saw it, Tallulah Cooper the alternate nights) all came across as a believable family with hearts of gold. Ella`s song “Love” was sung beautifully, as was the reprise between Annie and CG.

Geoff Houghton`s Roosevelt was delivered with a Christopher Walken-esque style, as were all other roles-way too many to mention individually- the chorus sounded and looked great- everyone up there looked as though they`d really enjoyed doing this one.

Special mention must go to the “orphans”- their singing and dancing was exemplary- well done to those I saw, and those I didn`t- I`m sure you were as amazing as each other.

Last, but certainly not least the incredibly well behaved Molly playing Sandy the Dog-cuteness factor 10, and great costume!

Scene changes and lighting were efficient and effective, with a walkway around the orchestra pit to maximise the performing area.

Orchestra and cast sounded great, Anna Eddowes-Scott getting the best out of both

Choreography was effective and simple- and had to be with the number of chorus onstage, but when room allowed, the movement changed to suit.

Director and Choreographer Vanessa Whittle must be really proud of her team and the production, as she has every right to be.

Final thoughts- all in all, Annie Warbucks is everything the original Annie was, so if you liked that, you`ll love this- just check your blood sugar levels when you leave!

Thank you Lancaster Red Rose and Byll Elliot, for an entertaining evening and great hospitality.