When an invitation to see the current UK tour of Annie at The Orchard Theatre in Dartford arrived I couldn’t reply faster to confirm my attendance. The musical tale of a redheaded orphan has remained popular with audiences for decades, and this was evident by the full house at The Orchard Theatre last night. Sweets in hand, dozens of children filled the auditorium and whispered excitedly as the cast filed on to the open set, clambering into their beds, waiting for the first notes of the overture.
The tour picks up various cast members throughout its run, and currently stars Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan. Her performance felt enthusiastic but a little tired, particularly when contrasted with the immense energy of the children (last night was the Tiffany Team), who were performing and singing their hearts out. Each of the children performed their role with confidence and security, their American accents almost flawless. Hard Knock Life was staged perfectly, with the obligatory metal buckets crashing into the floor of the orphanage.
The adult chorus of Annie had to prove their versatility throughout, as they jump from being down and outs in Hooverville, to the slick staff of Oliver Warbucks’ mansion. Grace was played with a stern sophistication that contrasted with many other versions of the character I’ve seen before. With a more mature voice and confidence, Grace becomes a more obvious adversary to the spiteful Miss Hannigan. My favourite number was the heart warming I Don’t Need Anything But You, bringing together the warm Daddy Warbucks and the bright energy of Annie. The song was staged with fun period appropriate dancing, and the cast filled the stage with joy and energy.
Puzzle pieces drape the stage, creating an interesting and malleable backdrop for the action, the main set pieces being brought in on trucks. This enabled super speedy scene changes, which kept the pace of the show going throughout – a must when a huge proportion of your audience is under ten years old!
Gutsy, vulnerable and relentlessly positive, Annie is the little orphan who just wouldn’t give up, even when wealth and security lands in her lap. Performed on Monday by Madeleine Haynes who is part of the Spirit Young Performers Company, she was a loveable character with a beautiful voice and her remarkable energy leapt off the stage. With a standing ovation after the final chorus of Tomorrow, there was no doubt that another generation of children had fallen in love with the music and spectacle of Annie.
Annie is at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford until 30th January 2016.