The tale of orphan Annie is a familiar one to most of the adult population thanks to the 1982 movie and the recently updated 2014 version as well as a host of stage productions over the years. This latest production directed by Nikolai Foster is full of colour, humour and tender moments which keeps you glued to the stage for the entire 2 hour running time.

The production springs to life from the very first moment as the orphans awake in the dormitory having been asleep on stage all the time the audience took their seats. A total of 21 kids make up the orphan troops, split into teams of seven per show.

Tonight for press night in Manchester we were treated to ‘Team Roxy’ which consisted of Molly (Rosanna Beacock), Pepper (Scarlett Flannery), Kate (Ashley Goldberg), July (Connie Burgess), Duffy (Amelia Love Coleman) and Tessie (Lissy Mant). Not forgetting of course Annie herself, Madeline Haynes. Whilst every single child on the stage tonight excelled, make a note of the name Madeline Haynes as I guarantee it is one you will be seeing in years to come on West End poster.

Alcoholic Miss Hannigan who has the unenviable task of looking after the orphans is currently played by Craig Revel Horwood, probably best known for his judging role on Strictly Come Dancing. Sadly he doesn’t live up to expectations in the role. His American accent came and went throughout the performance and his delivery of lines was more as though he was reading straight from the script than acting them. In contrast Horwood possesses a decent singing voice and not surprisingly can move rather well in the dance numbers!

The role of Hannigan during the tour is to be played by Lesley Joseph, Elaine C Smith and Jodie Prenger, whom was present tonight in the audience, no doubt getting some pointers on the challenges the role brings.

After a failed escape by Annie a representative of Mr Warbucks, Grace (Holly Dale Spencer), visits the orphanage to ‘borrow’ an orphan for the two week Christmas break whilst Warbucks (Alex Bourne) a New York billionaire is home for the festive season. Through luck Annie is chosen to be that child and she is whisked off to the opulence of the Warbuck’s mansion not knowing how her life was about to change.

The chemistry between Bourne and the young Haynes is electric from the moment they meet and they bond they create as the show moves on is believable and at times highly emotional.

Despite having everything she could possibly want, Annie was determined to find her parents and a reward is offered if they are located. An attempt to claim ownership of Annie and the reward with the assistance of Hannigan is rumbled at the 11th hour with the help of the President of the United States and Annie’s future is secured with the newly named Daddy Warbucks.

This is a superb production, if only slightly let down by Horwood’s performance. The ensemble are faultless throughout and the youngsters of the cast shine brighter than anybody. However, the true star of the show is Sandy played by 2 year old Labradoodle Amber. The numerous cameo appearances never failed to draw an aww from the audience.

Special mention should go the simple but clever set designed by Colin Richmond which pieced itself together into numerous disguises and was superbly lit by Ben Cracknell. Richmond also was responsible for the many costumes which stay true to the 1930’s era in which the show is set.

Annie continues at the Manchester Opera House until the 26th September with Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph playing Miss Hannigan on Fri 25 & Sat 26 Sep.  Full details can be found HERE!


Reviewer: Paul Downham

Reviewed: 16th September 2015

Photo: Paul Coltas