Touring – reviewed at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Nikolai Foster’s energetic and heartwarming production highlights just how this musical is a classic.
This family musical with its sheer enthusiasm, joy and optimism is exactly what we all need in these gloomy times and with Nikolai Foster’s gloriously heartwarming and sincere production of Annie you will certainly leave the theatre with a smile on your face.
Set in 1930s New York, feisty and optimistic Annie lives a miserable life at an orphanage run by Miss Hannigan. But she is soon given a chance to live a different life when she has the opportunity to spend Christmas at the home of Oliver Warbucks. However, Miss Hannigan has other plans.
Foster’s production really enhances the experience by ensuring that 1930s New York is really captured – particularly when it comes to the struggles of the working class people during The Great Depression as highlighted through the ‘Hooverville’ sequence. This sequence really captures the poverty and struggles that is sadly still relatable today. While the song itself is relatively perky, this is contrasted nicely with the gloomy designs of the Hooverville that Annie finds herself in.
This focus on the detail ensures that the production stays as sincere as possible, with the simple moments such as when Warbucks and Annie dance proving to be the most profound and touching elements. It is not a flashy or showy production – but it keeps the emotion within the story at its core.
Meanwhile, Nick Winston’s choreography is suitably playful and enjoyable to watch – with the strength and energy behind ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ particularly delightful, while the choreography to ‘N.Y.C’ is clever and creative.
But a lot of the show’s success depends a lot on the strength of the cast’s performances in convincing the audience of the sincerity of the story and this is done well. Craig Revel Horwood makes for a delightfully dry Miss Hannigan with an exaggerated accent that works really well for the character. Meanwhile, Alex Bourne delivers a heartwarming and engaging performance as Daddy Warbucks, with his chemistry with Freya Yates (playing Annie on press night) and Carolyn Maitland (Grace Farrell) proving to be utterly charming. Maitland’s performance was equally engaging and sincere.
The children of the cast (team Rockefeller on press night) also all gave strong and extremely self assured performances, but there was a perhaps an issue with the microphone of Freya Yates as I felt as though some of her vocals were missed – particularly during ‘Tomorrow’. As Annie, Yates delivered a great performance filled with heaps of personality.
Overall, it is impossible for you not to leave this production without a smile on your face – and a sense of optimism which is sorely needed in the world in general at the moment.
By Emma Clarendon
Annie will continue to play at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until 15 June before continuing to tour.