My absolute favourite childhood musical film is also a stunning piece of musical theatre, one that moves, enchants and entertains in equal measures. Yes, the sun came out at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre tonight as little orphan ‘Annie’ rolled into town. The depression era story of the feisty 11 year old redhead who steals the heart of a billionaire is the ultimate feelgood story, and in the capable hands of an outstanding cast, this is an experience that is sure to please the crowds that will flock to see it.
It’s 1933 and Annie has been in the New York Orphanage for 11 years, waiting in vain for the parents who abandoned her with nothing but a note and a locket to come and collect her again. The orphanage is run by the odious Miss Hannigan, a violent drunk who treats the orphans like inmates in a prison, making them work and clean at all hours of the day and night (hence the fabulous ‘It’s a hard knock life’), but a quirk of fate that sees Annie about to be punished for running away, means that the bubbly madam is in the office at the exact time Grace Farrell comes looking for an orphan child to spend Christmas with the billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Annie is whisked away for a wonderful experience, and charms the rich as Midas but lonely millionaire, who wants to adopt her. But Annie still longs for her real parents. Will there be a happy ending in this story?
Elise Blake is a total charmer as Annie, belting out those songs with sass and verve, and giving Annie just the right combination of feistiness and vulnerability. She is ably supported by the rest of the orphans, particularly Andie Jordan as the gutsy, spirited Molly, still crying in her sleep for her parents, but not afraid to show Miss Hannigan her feelings. Callum McArdle as Oliver Warbucks is softer and more charming than the Albert Finney film version, which helps move the action along nicely. He has a lovely rapour with Elise that is a joy to watch.
And then there are the bad guys. Lesley Joseph is born to play Miss Hannigan, she is both hilarious and terrifying in equal measures. Jonny Fines as her no-good brother Rooster is a real scene stealer, giving the villain the right mixture of sleazy charm and menace. When the siblings get together, along with the glamorous DJalenga Scott as Lily St Regis, to perform Easy Street, it is easily the standout, high point of the whole musical, a real counterpoint to the upbeat music numbers that litter the rest of the musical. Easy Street is down and dirty, and just brilliant.
Annie has been thrilling theatre audiences for years and it is easy to see why. It is superior entertainment for the whole family. Go See.
Mon 4 Apr – Sat 9 Apr
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
Click here for ticket information.