A childhood spent watching Fred
and Ginger twirl
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.
Annie’s 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.