Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Annie - Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Music: Charles Strouse
Lyrics: Martin Charnin
Book: Thomas Meeha
Director/Choreographer: Roger Hannah
Reviewer: Robert Yates

Annie is now considered a classic family musical, with productions of broadway leading to a much loved film. This production from Chris Moreno is now in its eighth consecutive year, with several members of the cast repeat performers. Birmingham is the last stop of a 5 month UK tour.

The musical opens in the orphanage with Molly and Annie taking leading roles. Both Lydia Tunstall (Annie) and Holly Delaney (Molly) put in sterling performances with plenty of character and strong voices to match. It bodes well for a show for which the lead is a young 10 year old girl.

Following the story of Annie as she is taken in by the billionaire Oliver Warbuck and instigates a nationwide search for her parents the musical races through a number of classics including "Tomorrow" quite early in the script. The ever drunk owner of the orphanage Su Pollard (Miss Hannigan) is way over the top in a pantomime esq performance. Much more could have been made of the comical side of this role in her interaction with the orphans.

Despite not being the headliner Simone Craddock (Grace Farrell) is undoubtedly the star of the show. With a winning smile and a very convincing performance Simone Craddock added a touch of quality to the limited amount of acting that was scattered throughout the show. David McAlister (Oliver Warbuck) only provides fleeting moments of the awkardness that defines his relationship with Annie when they first meet.

The marine guard played by Oli Sills was brilliant and the reactions of the other characters to his cameo is fabulous. Danny the Dog (Sandy) in his eighth tour added to the murmurs of laughter and excitement with a well timed chase across the stage. The climax of the musical in Oliver Warbucks mansion when Annie is reunited with her orphan friends is a heartwarming ending that will leave you with a feel good factor.

The choreography for the opening scenes with the orphans is a clever mix of dance and use of props. The choreography for the adults left more to be desired and became a little predictable and appeared repetetive. It is clear from this production that both Chris Moreno and Roger Hannah have had much recent experience in pantomime. By the interval some of the cliche dance moves were beginning to appear for a second time and by the end of the show it seemed that every song had very similar choreography. The orphans did provide some relief in the shows climax, acting as reindeer to the Presidents sleigh.

The constant changes in the set designed by Alan Miller-Bunford were very effective with some of the changes appearing to occur in seconds, this led to a very smooth performance. No complaints can be made about the musical direction of John Donovan either after a fine performance from the musicians.

Its no surprise that this show is clearly a family favourite with some of the younger members of the audience overly excited often calling out the name of Annie. For an evening of family entertainment and a night singing the memorable songs as you leave the theatre it is definitely worth a visit to Annie.

Runs until Saturday 21st November
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