Miranda Hart has made her West End debut in Annie the Musical, you mustn’t wait till ‘tomorrow’ to get your hands on some tickets.
Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage, hanging on to hope that her parents will pick her up.
Annie’s luck starts to change when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Meanwhile, spiteful (and must say hilarious, thanks to Hart) Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search for her true family.
Now if you’re reading this you’ll most probably know the story of ‘Annie’, and if not… Where have you been? It’s been around for a long time, in fact the original Broadway production opened in 1977. This review will contain spoilers, so just a warning if you’ve been hiding under a rock this whole time.
What was once a famous cartoon strip, and later turned into a Broadway musical – The old and some-what outdated, tired story of a girl called Annie, has had a new lease of life at the Piccadilly Theatre – and a refreshing take on old characters.
If you’ve watched the original 1982 movie with Aileen Quinn and the recent 2014 Hollywood blockbuster with Quvenzhané Wallis – The story being told in the West End is based on the original plot but with a modern twist.
Before I start
talking writing about how perfectly perfect the cast, stage design, choreography, musicians were – Let’s start with the 89 year old theatre that has a capacity of 1,232 people on a total of 3 levels. When arriving at the theatre you’re greeted with a huge billboard starring the 5 orphan girls, Sandi the dog, and Miranda as Miss H – If that doesn’t get the excitement and juices flowing, the theatre has it’s own bar with a range of refreshments – and seat service.
We had to give the seat service a try, it would have been rude not to. We were able to order everything they had to offer at the bar through the ATG app for mobile, once ordered and a few minutes past, a member of staff delivered our refreshments to our seats – without the need for us to queue or even get up, we obviously didn’t want to miss any action.
Now I have a confession, it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen the production of Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre, I saw it a week and a half ago but Miranda was sadly ill when I went. Although Anne Smith did an absolutely smashing job as Miss Hannigan, I had to see Miranda’s take on the iconic character and how she’d incorporate her comedy personality.
Miss Hannigan is a truly wicked and boozed up figure, yearning for love, but incapable of showing or receiving it, giving the persona of a sour grape – So when Annie was taken from her by Warbucks, she hatched a plan with her criminal brother and his appalling girlfriend to kidnap the kid, claim the £50k reward, then kill her.
Despite being ill for more than a week, Miranda Hart who’s best known on telly for her hugely successful (multi award-wining) BBC sitcom ‘Miranda’, put on a sensational performance and bellowed around the stage – I even found myself almost saying “Yes, Miss Hannigan,” as she threw her orders about in a controlling manner. Oh, and Miranda can certainly hold a note and carry a song, especially during her solo ‘Little Girls’ – Which proves she really is full of talent.
Monday’s show (21st August) was led by Madeleine Haynes as Annie (the two other Annie’s are: Lola Moxom, Ruby Stokes), her gigantic grin, her optimistic approach and vocal range helped reassure the orphans that their parents were coming back during the heartfelt song ‘Maybe’. Throughout the production Madeleine, who is only 14 years-old, sucked us into Annie’s story and made us believe her parents were coming, despite knowing the ending.
They say you should never work with kids or animals but Amber (Annie’s canine co-star Sandy) stole Act 1 with her charming good lucks even though she was supposed to be a stray. We were gutted not to see more of her during Act 2, but she helped transition scenes by surprisingly running across the stage.
The orphan girls, and there are 21 of them in total for the production, have reassuringly been selected for their energetic and strong vocals which never drops during the 2 hour and 20 minute show.
Alex Bourne’s brilliant rendition of Daddy Warbucks added an extra slice of comedy to the mix with his witty approach and passionate solo during Act 2 ‘Something Was Missing’. Holly Dale Spencer played his loyal sidekick ‘Grace’ and Djalenga Scott as ‘Lily’ provided additional support. Jonny Fines, Miss Hannigan’s chancer brother Rooster, was a likeable villain and his ‘Easy Street’ performance was one of my favourites from the show.
The stage design for Annie reminded us of Matilda’s glorious alphabet blocks but instead was jigsaw puzzle pieces, designed by Colin Richmond, each scene easily transitioned with another as portable sets rolled in from the left and disappeared right – and towering doors coming down from the ceiling.
The choreography (by Nick Winston) and the music (sound design by Richard Brooker and orchestration and musical direction by George Dyer) was lively, colourful and upbeat and helped to quickly change the mood and atmosphere of a scene. From “It’s A Hard Knock Life” to “Easy Street” and ending with “A New Deal For Christmas” with inventive moves and full on enthusiasm from the cast, it left us singing the hits on the way home.
Annie the Musical which is currently showing at the Piccadilly Theatre until February 2018 is a feel-good, family friendly show and most definitely worth a watch. Miranda Hart will be performing the role of Miss Hannigan until 17 September 2017 with Craig Revel Horwood taking over for 10 weeks thereafter.
Tickets are from £20, with no booking or transaction fees through official sales outlets, and children go half-price (Monday to Thursday performances).
Our review of Annie the Musical is awarded 5 stars out of 5. ★★★★★
Grab your tickets for Annie the Musical here.