REVIEW 2: Annie
by Margaret Chrystall
A STANDING ovation isn’t a bad way to finish a first night with Starlight’s bubbly, fun Annie production a perfect antidote to struggling with “the hard knock life”.
You’ll be treating yourself to some fine performances, powerful, well-rehearsed vocal numbers, ambitious scene-setting and spot-on technical touches.
But at the heart of Wednesday night’s Eden Court opening night success was a well-cast Annie in 10-year-old Erin Moran.
It’s a big job to carry a whole show on your shoulders.
But with a slightly more subdued interpretation of Annie than the sometimes over-the-top ones of movies and professional stage shows, Erin’s clear singing voice, dainty dancing and sincere, realistic take on Annie made her performance a winner.
Erin shares the role on alternate nights with Tyra Mcloughlin.
With our times of recession, the musical Annie is a good choice for 2016.
Though full of energy and optimism, the show Annie is set against the dark days of America’s Great Depression and a time when poverty and unemployment were everywhere and first hints were emerging that a war which would become the Second World War was brewing.
The holes in the orphans’ dowdy clothes set the scene from the off – though Miss Hannigan’s stinginess has as much to do with the girls’ bad circumstances.
But also The Hooverville scene where Annie spends some time with the poor and unemployed after running away from the orphanage is a good reminder that things are almost as tough outside Miss Hannigan’s domain.
Unless you are Daddy Warbucks...
And the scenes in his fabulous billionaire mansion – laughs as we discover even the Mona Lisa available to him – made a great contrast, as did the impressive Oval Office of President Roosevelt.
Fiona Chapman creates a Miss Hannigan it’s easy to hate, great at the booze-soaked moves and with a strong but subtle voice, shown off in Little Girls.
Garry Black is maybe just a few pounds too lean for the classic Daddy Warbucks image most of us have. But his acting skills added real pathos, as the workaholic rich man succumbs to the charms of orphan Annie. Their duet, Something Was Missing, is just one of the many highlights of the two performers’ scenes together.
NYC – a spectacular number with Amy Atkinson dazzlingly elegant as Star To Be – is one of the scenes that triumphs, thanks to gold star work from director, cast and orchestra.
And the same is true of the fabulous radio-show scene where Annie sings a number, Warbucks appeals to the nation for her lost parents to come forward and James Twigg shows off his voice as the non-tap-dancing show host Bert Healy in You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile. But all in that scene – including The Boylan Sisters with their sweet harmonies (Nicola Gray, Leah Smith and Seonaid Turner) and Kenny McCallum (and puppet) as ventriloquist Fred McCracken – make it a perfect little production within the production.
A special mention must also go to the colourful performances from Liam McAskill as Miss Hannigan’s dodgy brother Rooster and Molly MacKay as his ditsy girlfriend Lily who play the chancers turning up as Annie’s long-lost parents to nab Warbucks’ reward.
With Fiona Chapman, they had a ball with Easy Street and its second act reprise.
The truth is, there isn’t much not to like about this show.
Being picky, it could have moved a little faster at a couple of points in the first half and in one or two big numbers the words were occasionally a little bit indistinct – though the singing was always powerful.
But as with last year’s Oliver!, this is a show that makes a virtue of a talented group of younger performers well-supported by an experienced cast and backstage support system.
wagging his tail for Annie and the applause - right on cue.As the curtain call came on Wednesday and the crowd rose to their feet, even Jazz the dog who plays Sandy knew his moves -