Annie is touring the UK again after an extended season in the West End, stopping in Southampton this week, at the Mayflower Theatre. I couldn’t quite contain my excitement when I was invited along to the Press evening*, last night to review the show. Annie was always a firm favourite film of mine growing up, and has been on my list of West End shows to see for a long time. That is one thing I love about the Mayflower, they always have such high calibre shows, which means you don’t have to travel into the big smoke to see these great shows.
You can bet your bottom dollar, I had high expectations for this show, with its Tony award winning book and score, and I was certainly not disappointed. Directed by Nioklai Foster and Choreographed by Nick Winston, the show is brimming with energy and talent by a star studded cast.
Set in the 1930s, the story of Annie takes you on an emotional journey through socially relevant, political and social injustice of the time. It tackles extreme poverty, child neglect and social oppression. Annie is the shining light at the centre of the story, on a mission to find identity and heritage as an orphan in NYC. The tough storyline mixed in with an incredible score and beautiful choreography makes this musical stand out from the crowd. It’s full of substance and soul, mixed in with a bit of Hollywood glamour, telling an old story that is still so relevant today.
Strictly Come Dancing Judge, Craig Revel Horwood plays Miss Hannigan. Craig has played Hannigan in the West End previously, and has directed and choreographed his fair share of West End shows to know how to strut his stuff on stage. He was brilliant, full of sass with every inch of his body. Although the Yankee accent was questionable at times!
Speaking of sass… the girls in the orphanage absolutely killed it! I was blown away by their stage presence and sass levels in the classic ‘Hard knock life’. I am always really impressed by shows that have child stars, but these girls owned the stage and sang like angels. The role of Annie is being shared by Taziva-Faye Katsande, Ava Smith and Freya Yates, and Freya was little Annie in last night’s production. I thought she was phenomenal, I have not seen Annie performed on stage prior to this; however I have watched lots of renditions online and have to say Freya did an incredible job, and has such a wonderful voice. It’s so great to see the future generation of performers starting their careers in a show like this.
Alex Bourne, plays Daddy Warbucks, after playing the role in the West End show for some time. Bourne was made for this part, ever so sophisticated and suave as Warbucks should be. I completely fell in love with his character, without giving the story away for those who don’t know it. But Bourne’s performance is so endearing and heart-warming, it will really get you.
I couldn’t possibly go without mentioning the real star of the cast…Amber the dog who plays the one and only Sandy. Who doesn’t love a dog in a musical?
The score is wonderful and has all the classics such as; ‘Maybe’,’ Hard Knock Life’, and of course ‘Tomorrow’, they will take you right back to the film, I know it took me right back to my childhood, and had me tearing up at parts. I personally loved ‘Cabinet Tomorrow’, where Annie has managed to get President Roosevelt and his cabinet all up singing about a brighter day. It’s a great lesson in being optimistic, for everyone in the audience to soak up and take back in their every day lives.
Equally I have to mention the fantastic choreography, by Nick Winston; the staging is rather basic with small parts of scenery to establish NYC, Warbucks house and the orphanage. The cast however make the stage come alive in their performances with some incredible dancing. I loved the swing dancers during Hooverville. And Craig Revel Horwood dancing to ‘Easy Street’ was fabulous darling! I did however think the symbolism of the puzzle pieces hanging around the stage was so clever as Annie is really on a mission to find her missing puzzle piece.
I absolutely loved this show and would totally go and see it again Tomorrow! It completely lived up to and exceeded my expectations. Annie is currently touring the UK until November 2019 and is at the Mayflower Theatre from the 30th of April – 4th of May so there is still time to get your tickets on the Mayflower website here! You can find out more about the tour here!
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