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Review Annie, Wales Millennium Centre by Barbara Michaels

 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Based on the book by Thomas Meehan
Music: Charles Strouse
Lyrics: Martin Charnin
Director: Nikolai Foster
Choreographer: Nick Winston.
Set and Costume Designer: Colin Richmond
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Back on stage again, and touring after a highly successful London run, ‘Annie’ the musical, based on the book by Thomas Meehan and the popular comic strip Little Orphan Annie, the original Broadway production of Annie the musical, back in the Seventies, was an outstanding success, running for six years. Not surprising, really – the rags to riches story of eleven-year-old orphan Annie couldn’t fail to grab at the heart strings. The same is true now in this latest production, directed by Nikolai Foster. A musical with the heart-warming theme of a young girl living in an orphanage from which she is determined to escape and find her parents, never fails to be popular with audiences around the UK.

This time around, the darker side is given more prominence. Set in New York, in the Thirties, the time of the Great Depression when President Roosevelt and his cabinet were struggling to find a way through, set designer Colin Richmond uses random jigsaw pieces to emphasize the disjointed existence led by many – not least the orphans, of whom eleven-year-old Annie is the ringleader, under the tyrannical rule of the scary Miss Hannigan.

While the problems of the situation then can be seen to have relevance to our lives in the UK today, with the aftermath of the Pandemic, the lengthy prequel in the form of radio bulletins coming over speakers is overlong, given that the action speaks for itself. Nevertheless, this rejigged version scores, albeit much of it being carried on the shoulders of the highly watchable Craig Revel Horwood, segueing in high heels onto the stage of the Donald Gordon theatre for the second time – the last time was 2019 – in the role that he has made his own.

As the scheming harridan intent on looking after number one, Revel Horwood takes command of the stage, giving it welly with gusto in Easy Street in Act I, and proving yet again – as if we needed reminding -that judging Strictly is not by any means his only talent. Revel Horwood acts and dances with expertise; his timing is spot on. A true pro – although given n that this is the fifth production in which he has played the role, it is hardly surprising.

On opening night in Cardiff, the leading role of Annie was played by Zoe Akinyosade. A challenging role for any young aspiring actress, this young actress and singer ‘gets’ Annie, although there are times when she needs to guard against her voice becoming over shrill, this being exampled in her solo Tomorrow in Act II. There was a tendency for this to be the case with several of the young performers, compensated for by the verve with which they performed the energetic moves required by Nick Winston’s clever and innovative choreography.

The popular Alex Bourne, who played the role in the West End production, is a lovable Daddy Warbucks –the business tycoon who becomes an avuncular figure as he faces the challenges involved in becoming Annie’s adoptive Dad. The wistful Something Was Missing, sung by Warbucks and Annie in Act I and later reprised in Act II, scored Brownie points with this reviewer, while Paul French’s Rooster cuts the mustard on all fronts. Full marks to all the young performers for some superb dance moves.

As if performing with a posse of young actors wasn’t enough in itself, to challenge the adult performers, there is also a cuddly dog who trots back and forth obediently across the stage discreetly rewarded by the necessary treats.

Runs until Saturday July 8th at Wales Millennium Stadium

Review Annie WMC by James Briggs

Annie the Musical is set in a rough girl’s orphanage in New York in 1933 and follows the rags-to-riches journey of 11-year-old orphan Annie, one which takes her to the top of American society where she and her optimism influences many orphans, adults and even the President Franklin D Roosevelt.
The main star of the musical tour is Strictly Come Dancing Judge Craig Revel Horwood. His performance couldn’t be any further from his judging persona on Strictly as he donned a frock for the part of the bully Miss Hannigan, the orphanage ‘mother’. Well we can safely say he has earned the right to be as harsh as he is on Strictly Come Dancing because he can act, dance and most definitely sing! When he made his first appearance in the show with his high heels and swinging hips you could see from the audience’s reaction we were in for a good night.
Annie 1
Craig Revel Horwood is supported by a very strong cast who have been moulded to perfection. Alex Bourne as billionaire Daddy Warbucks was perfect casting and he was suitably strict when he needed to be but yet soft-centred as the plot unfolded, with a passion it seemed for dancing.
Holly Dale Spencer was superb as Warbuck’s ever helpful and faithful secretary, who helps Annie to get out from the orphanage to live in his luxurious mansion.
It is also very important to mention the brother of Miss Hannigan, Rooster and his villainous cohort Lily. Rooster is played with convincing style and comic cunning by Jonny Fines and Lily by Djalenga Scott brings their relationship to life. The two come up with a dastardly plan in which they pose as Annie’s real parents in an attempt to bag a $50,000 reward.
The true and rightful star of the show was Annie herself. Played by the extremely talented Madeleine Haynes. Her voice was powerful and had a great vocal range. Annie the musical is littered with difficult ballads and she pulled them off with ease.
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Due to the amount of shows that take place Madeleine is one of three Annie’s in one of the three teams of orphans in the show. I think it would also be right to mention all of Team Roxy because they did a fantastic job Rosanna Beacock (Molly), Scarlett Flannery (Pepper), Ashley Gold (Kate), Connie Burgess (July), Amelia Love Coleman (Duffy) and last but not least Lissy Mant (Tessie).
The dance routines throughout by the entire cast were second to none, although what else would you expect with Craig Revel Horwood choreographing.
It would be wrong to finish this review without of course mentioning the character in the show that impressed the audience with her skills, Amber, the highly talented dog who plays Sandy.
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In the words of Craig Revel Horwood this show was “Fab-u-LOUS Darling!” and deserved the standing ovation from the Millennium audience. Make sure you get yourself over to see Annie on tour because if you do you can “Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow” you’ll have fun