Annie has never been a particular favourite film of mine but having never seen the stage show, I wanted to check it out whilst it’s on at the New Wimbledon Theatre. With the classic songs ‘It’s A Hard Knock Life’ and ‘Tomorrow’, Annie has become a household favourite for adults and children alike.
Most famous for the 1982 film, Annie tells the story of the little red headed orphan who is kept under the strict watch of the horrible Miss Hannigan. When billionaire Oliver Warbucks decides to take in an orphan for the christmas holidays, Annie does everything she can to make sure she is the chosen one. Once there, Daddy Warbucks decides to adopt Annie, only to find out that what she wants most in the world is to find her real parents. Warbucks launches a nationwide campaign, offering $50,000 to Annie’s parents to come forward for her. But with the lure of money comes a lot of fakers and with a line of potential parents going around the block will any of them be Annie’s true blood or will she remain an orphan forever?
I was slightly disappointed when I heard Craig Revel Horwood would be playing Miss Hannigan (as I really wanted to see Lesley Joseph who is sharing the role) but I am so glad I did as he was phenomenal! Only knowing him as the loathsome judge on Strictly Come Dancing, I wasn’t aware of his talents and his performance blew me away and captivated me for the entire show. Alex Bourne was warm and friendly as Daddy Warbucks (just how you would want a foster parent to be) and Holly Dale Spencer was perfectly cast as Grace. I know it is a phrase used too often now in theatre reviewing but the entire ensemble deserve a mention here for a hugely energetic performance that really gave this show the edge it needed.
The real star of this show though is Isabella Pappas as Annie. Having seen her in last years The Nether, I had no idea of her singing ability! She has a seriously good set of lungs on her for a twelve year old and a captivating acting ability that draws you in to her world.
It’s hard not to compare this production to Matilda the Musical, with its clever use of jigsaw pieces all around the stage, colourful costumes and brilliant direction and choreography by Nikolai Foster and Nick Winston. Working with children on a show like this must be a challenge but it is executed seamlessly and all the girls look like they are having the time of their lives up on stage (especially Nikoo Saeki who beamed with joy for the entire two hours). This production of Annie is quite possibly the best family show I have seen since Matilda. It blew my mind! The easiest five stars I have given in quite some time!
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Paul Coltas
Annie is playing at the New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday (with Craig Revel Horwood playing Miss Hannigan until Friday and then Lesley Joseph on Saturday). Click here to book tickets