REVIEW: ANNIE (Milton Keynes Theatre) ★★★★

“Why any kid would wanna be an orphan is beyond me…” and yet, a part of you does because Annie always manages to raise your spirits. The film and the character are full of energy, optimism and heart-warming pluck.

Based on Little Orphan Annie, the stage adaptation of Annie is no less energetic, but it doesn’t have quite the same impact as the film. The ending is a bit of an anti-climax and feels quite rushed. But overall it’s a joy and the story moves seamlessly between the orphanage, 5th Avenue and the subway tunnels to provide a symbolic comparison of life during the Great Depression.

The children are fantastic, bouncing about the stage and really in sync with their characters. Orla McDonagh starts the show as the youngest orphan, with the others moaning and teasing her until Annie (Freya Yates) turns up. And leaping lizards is she good! Her chemistry with the other children and the adults is great and she is a very mature actor. Scenes with Alex Bourne (Daddy Warbucks) are lovely to watch and you really feel the connection between them. The role of Sandy seems a little contrived, but who doesn’t love a Labradoodle?

Craig Revel Horwood brings a different interpretation to the role of Miss Hannigan. Perhaps not as sassy as you’d expect, he walks the line between mean and pitiful. His rendition of Little Girls is amusing and he has a good rapport with the audience. Rooster (Richard Meek) and Lily (Jenny Gayner) provide a constant comedic present and their performance of Easy Street with Revel Horwood is excellent.

It’s full of familiar songs like Hard Knock Life, Easy Street and Tomorrow, plus a few perhaps less well-known. Hooverville really hits home the general feeling in NYC and America at the time and NYC is a nice nod to the fact that actually, people still love their city. Hard Knock Life is performed brilliantly by the orphans, with excellent choreography from Nick Winston, including some clever little stunts. Personally, I think that I Don’t Need Anything But You makes for a more rousing finale song than A New Deal for Christmas, but the festive feel adds to the happy ending.

While Annie isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a real family favourite that leaves you with joy in your heart and believing that actually, the sun may come out tomorrow!

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes


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