Touring – reviewed at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Annie is an absolute cult classic show, from its various film incarnations and tours around the world, there’s something wonderful about the story of a young orphan who overcomes adversity and finds the love she’s always desired.
Nikolai Foster’s current UK touring production of the show features a wonderful set, some thrilling choreography and a whole lot of foot stamping energy from both the children and the adults. Colin Richmond’s set is reminiscent of Matilda, with fragments (in this case puzzle pieces) framing the stage and creating a backdrop which leaves a lot to the imagination but also seems to flow and transition. Richmond’s costumes are perfect for the setting but also manage to put a refreshing spin on the styes which have become synonymous with the show such as Annie’s red coat and Lily St Regis’ flowing dress.
Nick Winston once again provides the goods with his sharp choreography that incorporates a number of dance styles and never waivers. Particularly impressive are the tap numbers and rousing NYC sequences. The cast is precise and clean as the performers bring Winston’s vision to life in an entertaining and stylistic way.
The young cast does a great job of bringing the various personalities of the orphans to life, with stand outs at this performance including Chancé Quaye, Aliya Bashir and Francesca Robinson. Leading the way as Annie herself, Freya Yates gives a good, assured performance and is sure to grow and develop into a wonderful musical theatre performer.
Among the adult cast it’s Carolyn Maitland who stands out as the caring Grace, who takes Annie under her wing and becomes the perfect mother figure. Maitland’s voice is superb and she really does radiate warmth. Richard Meek is entertaining as the bad boy schmoozer Rooster, who cons his way through life but remains annoyingly charming.
Alongside the talented Jenny Gayner as Lily, the pair give fiery performances, especially in the kick-line inducing ‘Easy Street’. Craig Revel Horwood is a clear audience favourite and does give a rounded performance. Whilst there are moments which lack in energy, others fizzle and excite. Overall there are times when the audience could have benefited from Horwood having stronger diction within his strong New York accent but he does, mostly, do the iconic role justice.
Although the sun might not be coming out in Surrey tomorrow, there’s no doubt that this show will bring light and joy to many children. The beaming faces and exclamations of “I want to see it again” prove how magical theatre can be; and whilst this show is not everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly has the heart to inspire.