A childhood spent watching Fred and Ginger twirl Cheek to Cheek and Bing Crosby dream about a White Christmas gave me a lifelong appreciation for musical theatre. My childhood favourite was Annie, the Broadway mega-hit based on the Depression-era comic story. Little Orphan Annie, with her rags-to-riches tale and eternally optimistic outlook, enthralled and enchanted me. Now Annie is back, set to captivate a new generation of children thanks to director Nikolai Foster’s inspired new UK touring production.

Annie’s score features one hit after another, performed with effervescent skill by the talented cast.

The first striking aspect of Foster’s show is the set, embellished with jigsaw puzzle pieces printed with a New York City map. Foster wanted the set to present a metaphor for Annie’s journey through New York as she puts together the pieces of her life. The effect is distinctly Roald Dahl-esque, calling to mind Annie’s spiritual musical sister, the protagonist of the Olivier Award-winning Matilda – another plucky heroine who overcomes obstacles and oppressive authority figures, alongside social satire and great tunes. The inspired set adapts to its surroundings: from oppressively grey in the orphanage scenes to a whirlwind of technicolor light and fast-paced movement during standout number NYC.

Annie’s score features one hit after another, performed with effervescent skill by the talented cast. The principal role of Annie is shared by three young actresses, with Madeleine Haynes taking on the role on opening night at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Haynes carries the production, utterly confident and naturalistic in the role, not to mention note-perfect. She is complemented by a lively band of orphans in the iconic ‘Hard Knock Life’ and shares truly sweet chemistry with Alex Bourne’s commanding Daddy Warbucks.

Beloved Scottish comedian Elaine C Smith is hilarious as the scheming Miss Hannigan, but true MVPs are Jonny Fines as her wily and devious brother Rooster and Holy Dale Spencer as the kindly Grace Farrell. Fines’ charisma and accomplished dance skills make his ‘Easy Street’ a highlight, whilst Dale Spencer showcases a beautiful soprano voice and oozes elegance.

Annies charm lies in its mix of effervescence and sharp political commentary. The 1930s setting is suggested by John Mannion’s evocative costumes, which contrast the glamour of the Warbucks household with the homeless inhabitants of the Hoovervilles. The period is also evoked by snippets of Charleston dancing, a nod to On the Town in NYC, not to mention the appearance of President Roosevelt himself.

Annie might be about the American Dream realised, but the show is not afraid to deal in disappointment and depict the grim realities of Depression-era America. The show might suggest Annie inspires Roosevelt’s New Deal as she stands out in all-American red against the grey suits of his politicians, but the production always stays on the right side of magical, never straying too far into cheesiness. This is must-see reimagining of a timeless classic, a dazzling spectacle with plenty of heart.

Reviews by Francesca Street

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The Blurb

Annie, the world’s favourite family musical, starring acclaimed actress, comedienne and panto star; Elaine C Smith (Rab C Nesbitt, Burdz Eye View) as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan!

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search…

With its award-winning book and score, this stunning new production includes the unforgettable songs ‘Hard Knock Life’, ‘Easy Street’, ‘I Don’t Need Anything But You’ and ‘Tomorrow’. Don’t miss Annie – you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll love it!

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