Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Annie the Musical at Storyhouse, Chester - A Review

Annie was such an iconic film from my childhood and I have so many memories of watching the video repeatedly with my cousins, whilst making up our own dance routines to 'Hard Knock Life'.  It is a movie that I have never tired of and still watch regularly with my own children. Although the film was based on the Broadway Musical (and the comic book Little Orphan Annie before it), it is certainly the screen adaptation that I am most familiar with. As a result, I had mixed feelings of intrigue and excitement, as to whether the stage version could live up to my expectations -  well you can bet your bottom dollar that Annie the Musical absolutely did!

Annie the Musical tells the tale of a young red haired girl, who dreams of finding her parents and enjoying a life outside of the orphanage. Her determined attitude and loveable charm, lead to her finding a home with billionaire Mr Warbucks, though her quest to find her real parents takes a sad turn when she finds out they have sadly passed away. However, Annie certainly finds happiness in the end with her unexpected father figure Daddy Warbucks, along with his assistant Grace Farrell firmly by her side.

As soon as the show commenced, there was energy in abundance and we were quickly introduced to the fiesty and strong-willed attitude of the orphans. They presented an enjoyable rendition of 'Hard Knock Life' that immediately drew you into the performance and it was clear from the start that we were in for an enjoyable evening of entertainment. The younger stars of the show most certainly shine throughout, in what is an undeniable demonstration of exceptional young talent.

Annie was played by Ava Smith (one of three Annie's on the tour), who was magnificent in the starring role. She is clearly a child with extraordinary talent and this was undoubtedly obvious every single moment that she was on the stage. I particularly enjoyed the performance of  'I Don't Need Anything But You', where clever and well thought out choreography brought together a wonderful routine, with both Annie and the senior cast members.

I felt that the show was well paced and there was never a dull moment as we were taken from one showstopper to the next, with an impressive 30's flair. The set and costumes were all in keeping with the era and there has clearly been a great attention to detail in the wardrobe department, to ensure that the outfits matched both the story and time period that they were representing.

There was a static jigsaw themed surrounding which never changed throughout the show, but instead the sets and props would be moved and introduced on to the stage, which worked really well. I also felt that this was complimented skillfully, by the lighting effects that illuminated the sets and highlighted the characters superbly.

Prior to the show, I was initially unsure as to how I would perceive Anita Dobson as Miss Hannigan. Despite the fact that she has taken on numerous characters over the years, she has always stood out to me as being Angie Watts from Eastenders and I therefore had a slight concern that I wouldn't be able to see past that. However, Anita Dobson soon cast aside any earlier doubts that I had and convincingly demonstrated a child-hating, alcohol loving, orphanage owner. She was a delight to watch and made the role her own, whilst delivering powerful vocals and impressive choreographed moves with ease. My particular favourite of the night was 'Easy Street', when combined with the talents of Rooster (Richard Meek) and Lily (Jenny Gayner), provided a perfectly executed delivery of a thoroughly entertaining act. Her quirkiness and facial expressions added a comical element to her portrayal and she ultimately suited the role perfectly.

Carolyn Maitland excels as Warbuck's assistant Grace Farrell, with a stunning voice that immediately commands your attention. Her vocal skills are evident during the song 'N.Y.C' and her acting ability ensures that the warmth and kindness of the character are exhibited throughout the show. I loved her on stage chemistry with Mr Warbucks (Alex Bourne) who had the perfect blend of formidable businessman combined with charismatic charm. His soft side was soon displayed upon meeting the inquisitive and delightful Annie and he exhibited a believable father and daughter relationship.

A special mention also has to be given to the beautiful dog Amber, who was absolutely pawsome in the role of Sandy and if anything I would have liked to have seen more of her. I was surprised to find that the song 'Dumb Dog' had been omitted from the show, which I personally think is a shame as it would have been lovely to have seen more of the companionship between them.

Overall Annie the Musical completely lived up to my expectations and whilst the stage version differs somewhat from the well known movie, it did not disappoint. My inner-child was desperate to sing along and it was great to be able to enjoy some of the new musical numbers, with Hooverville and N.Y.C being particularly enjoyable. Featuring a wonderful cast and strong ensemble, Annie is packed full of enough upbeat performances to keep the audience captivated. It is a wonderful, feel-good, family friendly production, that is guaranteed to leave a smile on your face.

Listing Details

Show: Annie the Musical
Venue: Storyhouse, Hunter Street, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2AR
Dates: Monday 25th March to Saturday 30th March 2019
Booking: This can be done online at www.storyhouse.com, by calling 01244 409113 or by visiting the ticket kiosks at Storyhouse, Hunter Street, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2AR

For further details you can visit the Storyhouse website, or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - www.storyhouse.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/storyhouselive
Twitter - @storyhouselive
Instagram - @storyhouselive

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary tickets to review the show. Opinions and thoughts are my own. Images are from a previous show not the performance that we attended.

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