Review: Annie

THERE is an old theatrical saying that you should never work with children and animals on stage. But that theory is totally blown away in this current production of Annie being performed at Guiseley Theatre until Saturday 19 October. For it is Annie, her fellow orphans and also Sandy the dog that steal the show.

Eliza Wilson, one of the two girls playing the title role was excellent in the performance that I attended and I am assured that Jemima McDonald who shares this role at alternate performances is equally as good. Eliza’s performance is totally captivating, sweet rather than sugary, and her singing and acting was faultless, especially in her renditions of Maybe, Tomorrow and I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here.

The nine orphans are also outstanding, and their renditions of Hard Knock Life and You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile were superb both from a singing and a choreography point of view. They sang their hearts out as if their entire lives depended upon it. Again there are two teams alternating between performances and Team Chrysler who were performing at the performance I saw were faultless and I was told by the production team that Team Rockefeller are also outstanding.

There are also some excellent performances from the adult members of the cast as well. Two of these stood out for me; Colin Waterman as Daddy Warbucks and Nicky Burrows as Grace Farrell his assistant. Both of them turned in excellent performances and whilst Colin may not have the best singing voice in the world, he more than makes up for this with his superb acting which warmed him to the audience. Likewise, Nicky’s performance was excellent, with some superb singing especially in N.Y.C. and I Think I’m Gonna Like it here with Annie.

There is much humour in the show and this principally comes from Miss Hannigan, the manageress of the orphanage, her brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily. I thought Jill Whitehouse as the drunken Miss Hannigan was outstanding in this respect, ridiculously nasty and spitefully verdant, whilst Darren Smith and Alison Smith as Rooster and Lily provided perfect foils for her. Their trio of Easy Street was one of the other highlights in the show.

Like all great musicals, Annie is a fascinating story that takes you on an emotional journey as relevant to the class system today as it was during the Great Depression in America in the 30s. Then there are those incredibly well structured, old school Broadway show tunes that are a work of genius. It’s a combination of all these things that makes Annie one of the best-loved shows of all time.

From a technical point of view both the music and the sets deserve special mention. The band, are spot on with their musical portrayal of Charles Strouse’s score and Ian Sapiro the Musical Director keeps good control so that they ensure that the rich sound of the thirties-inspired music is ever-present. I also thought the choreography by Ted Oxley-Kirk was outstanding.

This is a sumptuous production which is ideal for families and has both that wow and feel-good factor behind it. David Kirk has done a superb job on the production and this has paid off with a great show. There are still some tickets left for Thursday evening and I would highly recommend anyone who has not yet bought tickets and who love a great musical to get these by ringing 01132506434 or 07960604082. You can bet your bottom dollar that you will be thoroughly entertained.

by John Burland