The story is set in 1933 New York, during the depression and concerns an 11 year old girl who, when she was a baby, was left at the New York Orphanage by her parents. The orphanage is run by the cruel, alcoholic spinster, 'Miss Hannigan'. 'Annie' vows to escape the orphanage and look for her parents. However, escape is impossible. Then one day the wealthy billionaire Mr Warbucks is on the look-out for an orphan to spend Christmas at his home and, of course, Annie is chosen! Soon the lonely 'Daddy Warbucks' becomes fond of 'Annie' and wishes to adopt her, or rather that is until her supposed real parents turn up!
I have to say that I enjoyed the film version better than this stage production which seemed rushed at times. It failed to explore the affectionate relationship that developed between 'Annie' and 'Daddy Warbucks', which would have explained his wish to adopt her. This gave the story some credibility problems. However, as the show progressed the affection did begin to surface, and I then became interested in whether he succeeded in adopting her or not!
"Annie" has some wonderful and memorable songs like 'Tomorrow', 'It's the Hard-Knock Life', 'Maybe', 'Easy Street' and many more. Most are performed competently, but Kevin Colson who plays ' Daddy Warbucks' has an awful singing voice and could not get his tongue around the songs! Mind you, his voice did improve as the show went on. Kevin Colson's voice may have left a lot to be desired, but he sure made up for it with his acting performance. He creates a very convincing 'Daddy Warbucks', wonderfully capturing the grumbled tone of voice and facial features of this character. Lesley Joseph is a great 'Miss Hannigan', particularly when performing the song 'Easy Street' with Andrew Kennedy as ' Rooster' and Gail Marie Shapter as 'Lily'. Their collective performance of this song near the end of act one is very funny in deed. (Note: Actress Jenny Logan is expected to take over the role of Mrs Hannigan for a month from mid-November before Lily Savage (Paul Grady) starts his two month run in the role from 15th Dec 98).
Charlene Barton and Sophie McShera alternate the role of 'Annie'. This evening's performance was played by Sophie McShera, a 13-year-old from Bradford. She is a very talented young girl with a superb voice for her young age. Although I must add that she has an expressionless face that fails to capture the cheeky smile and warmth as well as the suffering of the character. But nevertheless it was a competent and professional performance.
There are two stars of the show for me though. The first is Leah-Verity White who plays 'Molly', of the Blue Team (Note: There are two teams of children that alternate, they are The Blue Team and the Red Team). This little girl is only six years of age, but she is a sensation, with an incredible voice and acting ability. She surely is a star of the future. The second star is the dog!! Apparently two dogs alternate the role of 'Sandy', the dog. I don't know which one played the part this evening, Cassie or Leisha', but the dog did not put a paw wrong. However, I do hold reservations about using live animals on stage!
The show has received some good notices from the popular press: ROBERT GORE-LANGTON of THE DAILY EXPRESS says, A vat of shameless syrup, I lapped it up. In the West End race for the big Christmas outing, Annie moves into poll position." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES said "I enjoyed Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin's musical when it first hit London 20 years ago, and, sap that I still must be, I enjoyed its latest revival. " NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says, "This beautifully staged revival of the 1970s American musical that rivals peaches and cream for unadulterated wholesomeness proves the age of innocence is alive and well. "
"Annie" is an average musical compared to some of the others that are presently playing on the West End. Nevertheless it is a pleasant evening out for the family.