Piccadilly Theatre, London – until 16 January 2018
Given everything that is happening in the world at the moment, the arrival of Annie in the West End couldn’t have happened at a better time. In terms of offering hope in dark times, there is nothing quite like the musical Annie to lift up your spirits and leave you feeling optimistic about the world. The classic musical based on the Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie is given new life thanks to Nikolai Foster’s lively and funny production that features a wide variety of talent being displayed.
Following the story of little orphan Annie who just wants to find her parents, the musical is very much about the children of the cast, despite excellent performances from the adults. Ruby Stokes as Annie (one of three – Madeleine Haynes and Lola Moxom are also alternate Annie’s) is surprisingly gutsy and feisty with excellent vocals, particularly during ‘Maybe’ and the iconic ‘Tomorrow’ – certainly someone to keep an eye on in the future. All of the fellow orphans are equally as strong throughout, including a memorable performance of ‘Hard Knock Life’ that is sharply choreographed and delivered.
Meanwhile, in the adult cast Miranda Hart is making her West End debut as Miss Hannigan – offering a very different interpretation of the character that is a delight to watch. Although she is more sarcastic than nasty, Hart offers a more comical performance from the way in which she slides down in despair after taking a swig of gin or the way in which she sneers at the children. Vocally perhaps she isn’t the strongest, but the little roughness around the edges actually manages to work for the character but she is more than capable of dancing as the routine of ‘Easy Street’ proves.
Alex Bourne delivers a heartwarming performance as Daddy Warbucks and is a quiet but dignified performer throughout, while Jonny Fines and Djalenga Scott as Rooster and Lily are suitably villainous with great dance moves thrown in.
Everything about this production is cheerful and energetic, including Nick Winston’s choreography which perfectly captures the spirit of the music and the show itself, from the slightly aggressive footwork and movement of ‘Hard Knock Life’ to the upbeat and highly energetic ‘N.Y.C’ .
But it also offers a lot of context to the era in which the musical is set with many delightful references to the likes of Al Capone and Eliot Ness, with Warbuck once barking: “well take Ness off the Capone case” to add a bit more depth to the story.
‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile’ so the song goes and with Nikolai Foster’s production you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face. Straight forward and fun entertainment.