On Monday night we were transported back to 1930s New York thanks to Annie the Musical. I was invited to The Marlowe Theatre’s Annie press night and gifted tickets in exchange for a review of the opening night performance. Appearing in Canterbury for one week only, the UK tour of Annie is straight out of the West End and bringing the glitz and the glamour of the big apple to Kent. A story loved by so many, Annie is the tale of a young orphan in New York who is desperate to find her birth parents. After 11 years of hardship at the orphanage thanks to the evil Miss Hannigan (Lesley Joseph in the UK tour), Annie’s fortunes turn when she is invited to spend the Christmas holidays at Mr Warbuck’s house (a rich billionaire played by Alex Bourne). With a cast led by Kiana Dumbuya, Annie is a feel-good musical masterpiece for all of the family.
The Sound Of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Annie were some of the first movie musicals I was introduced to as a child. ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’ and ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile’ were some of my favourite musical theatre tracks growing up and even as a teenager I’d perform “Tomorrow” at my singing lessons. Once the show began and the orphan girls started singing ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’, I couldn’t help but join in from my seat as the tracks are just so memorable. The show started with so much energy, life and charisma and my gosh, can those young girls sing! Their voices took over the theatre and instantly made you think, wow, this is going to be an exciting show.
Very early on, Kiana Dumbuya was given the spotlight as Annie and you were able to see her unsuccessful escape attempt from the orphanage. Lesley Joseph was fabulous in making the horrible Miss Hannigan comedic on Annie’s return to the orphanage, helping to keep the performance family-friendly. I think that goes without saying for the whole show actually; Joseph brought a real sense of humour to Miss Hannigan.
Halfway through the first act, Grace Farrell (Warbucks’ secretary, played by Carolyn Maitland) visited the orphanage with the aim of taking an orphan home with her to Mr Warbucks’ house for Christmas. Later we learnt this orphan would be Annie and when Grace left the orphanage with her, the glitz and glamour of old New York started to seep through onto the stage. The set transformed from run-down back streets to movie theatres, Fifth Avenue and the Warbucks mansion: worlds away from Annie’s precious home. The Warbucks Mansion was recreated beautifully in gold and the mansion performers wore such glossy uniforms.
As the plot thickened and we learnt of Annie’s growing happiness at the Warbucks house, the audience began to realise that despite Mr Warbucks’ kindness, Annie needed to learn of her parents whereabouts before she could accept where she comes from. The big search for Annie’s parents commenced and from this point on, the production began to focus in on Annie, Mr Warbucks, Grace, Miss Hannigan, her brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily. The contrast between the two groups of people was outstanding. Annie, Grace and Mr Warbucks were nothing but friendly and completely incomparable to the awful Miss Hannigan and her motley crew.
Through tears, laughter and smiles, we followed Annie and Mr Warbucks’ search for her birth parents in the final segment of the production. The last climax was treated very differently in the musical to the original movie (it was far less dark), but I think this worked as it kept the overall production appropriate for the family audience. Besides, as a Disney fan, I couldn’t help but adore the joyful plot twist.
A light, fun and energetic musical, Annie is definitely a crowd pleaser. The entire stalls audience were on their feet in the finale and everybody was cheering for the cast.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx