REVIEW: Annie, Kings Theatre, 9th Feb 2016

Published in the Student Advertiser.

Annie, to me, is one of those shows that has been revived so often that, in some productions, I find myself sitting there thinking it should have stayed in the 80s with Aileen Quinn (Annie in the original movie).

However, in this new staging, brought to you by the likes of Strictly’s Craig Revelhorn, the original 1920s tale of Annie the Orphan is brought to life in a newly fun and brightly-coloured way. The production handles sentimentality more gently than normal by pairing it with continuous witty one-liners, making this brand new interpretation one of the few productions that does not leave the audience wishing it really was Tomorrow already.

For those who have maybe been living under a rock for 30 years, Annie is thrilled when Grace, the secretary of the Oliver Warbucks’, shows up at her orphanage to invite one orphan to spend Christmas at his lavish home. While her friends are sad to see her go, they hope Annie fulfils her life-long dream of finding her parents; they left a locket and a letter with her when they dumped her on Miss Hannigan’s doorstep 11 years ago.

Warbucks soon falls head-over-heels for Annie and decides to adopt her, much to Annie’s dismay who is still convinced her parents will show up eventually. Determined to make his special girl happy, he offers a healthy $50,000 reward to anyone who can prove they are Annie’s biological parents. What could possibly happen next?

It’s difficult to believe that Elise Blake (playing the title role) is only 11, the same age as her Annie alter-ego. Not only does she possess the voice of an actor far beyond her years, Blake’s stage presence, clear confidence in the role and professionality rival that of her professional co-stars, Alex Bourne (Daddy Warbucks) and Elaine C. Smith (Miss Hannigan). Now, about Smith…

In a tale of predictability and all too unlikely happy endings, the purpose of Miss Hannigan (the drunken, sly and abusive orphan owner) is to inject a much needed dose of black humour.

However, if I’m being entirely honest, Elaine C. Smith was quite stiff in the role. While it’s difficult to find flaw in her vocals – gutsy and rustic, powerful and in tune – Smith’s dance routines left much to ask for. She delivered some of the show’s best one-liners a little out of time and made the humour sound quite forced. It often felt as though she was reading the script but not feeling entirely confident about what it was she was meant to be conveying.

That saying, from the moment Smith walked onto the stage the majority of the audience picked up. Scotland love seeing a home girl doing well for herself and, although not the strongest cast member, Smith still did a decent job of it.

I can’t rave highly enough about the six orphan girls: Natasha Arabestani, Ezara Lockhart, Annika Whiston, Rachel Masters, Natasha Raphael and Chloe Bowes.

The girls made tricky dance sequences look extraordinarily easy even whilst singing – and not just ‘singing’: I mean Singing. Each individual went to the extremes to make the best job of their role and it was noticeable. ‘Team Rockerfeller’ (all kids in the production are divided into three teams to comply with child acting laws) are testimony to the age-old idea that a show simply wouldn’t be a show without star-studded supporting cast. And that goes every single supporting cast member in the production.

Each and every one of them deserves to have their name in lights.

 Read more theatre and live music reviews here.


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