Theatre Review: Annie – Opera House, Manchester


This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

When Annie first burst onto Broadway in 1977, the brassy American musical won over hearts of theatre goers across the world with a record six-year run at the Alvin Theatre, scooping a Tony Award for Best Musical. Over 38 years later, the award-winning musical is continuing to thrill audiences in a stunning new production on tour in the UK starring Craig Revel Horwood as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan.

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, Annie tells the story of a brave young orphan who is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Determined to find her real parents, Annie’s luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire Oliver Warbucks but the spiteful Miss Hannigan, along with her brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search.

Lively, fun and with plenty of heart, Nikolai Foster’s revival of Annie is every bit as good as the original. Nick Winston’s choreography is fun, brisk and playful and George Dyer’s musical balance between the orchestra and the cast is spot on. Its vibrant and enthusiastic score is full of unforgettable tunes such as Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow. Add to this a strong cast performance and an attractive jigsaw-puzzle set design by Colin Richmond and you’re onto a winner.

Most of the show’s success is down to the performance of the three central female characters – Annie, Grace Farrell and Miss Hannigan. Madeline Haynes is terrific as Annie, the red-haired heroine full of optimism. For a young actress, Haynes gives a performance beyond her years, delivering a pitch-perfect version of Tomorrow and performing the difficult dance numbers with an effortless grace that is equal to her older peers.

Holly Dale Spencer is superb as Grace Farrell, secretary to the wealthy Mr Warbucks who gives an unswerving sense of warmth to Annie throughout the story. Her soaring soprano vocals are simply stunning and her chemistry with Alex Bourne who plays Mr Warbucks is natural and realistic.

BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood stars as Miss Hannigan, the Cruella de Vil-type orphanage owner who hates children. Horwood can certainly act, sing and dance and while he plays the role like an exaggerated drag act, his vicious put-downs and sharp comic timing is first class, earning him a standing ovation.

The supporting cast are certainly worth a mention, particularly Jonny Fines as the sly Rooster and Djalenga Scott as his trashy girlfriend Lily. Team Roxy (aka Rosanna Beacock, Scarlett Flannery, Ashley Goldberg, Connie Burgess, Amelia Love Coleman and Lissy Mant) are also excellent as Annie’s friends and fellow orphans.

All in all, Nikolai Foster’s revival of the famous family musical is fresh, fun and fabulous. A superb production of a much-loved classic.

Runs until 26 September

Reviewer: Donna Kelly | Photo: Paul Coltas