Annie - New Wimbledon Theatre
It's a hard knock life out on tour
The beloved Annie and the slimy Miss Hannigan have been traversing the country since February and the fatigue has started to set in. The heartfelt musical, adored by so many retains a smidge of sparkle in its musical numbers and innate charm, but there is an impossible to ignore flatness embedded in the once dazzling production - destined to underwhelm.
Family favourite Annie is a sweet story of a young girl raised in an orphanage and desperate to find her parents. Cruelly looked after by the forever intoxicated Miss Hannigan, Annie, along with her fellow orphans dream of a life of love and happiness, far away from Hannigan’s clutches. So when a billionaire businessman offers to take Annie in for the Christmas holidays, it looks as though her luck might just be turning around.
There remains an essence of the original vision that Nickolai Foster’s direction set out when this production ran in the west end in 2017, but the lengthy tour has steadily chipped away at dwindling enthusiasm and during certain moments a semi-soulless husk remains. Sadly, in part due to the lacklustre performance offered by renowned Strictly Judge Craig Revel Horwood - potentially hindered by the gruelling schedule that touring and filming offers. As Miss Hannigan, he is passive and uninspired - for a role that should be stealing the spotlight in every possible situation, he sinks into the background - substandard.
The talented cast of children do an excellent job of delivering cutesy and adorable performances. Their squeaky New York accents and total commitment to Nick Winston’s choreography prove that musical theatre has young talent ready to take centre stage in the near future. Our Annie for the evening, Harlie Barthram, is sweet and animated as the titular character, her impressive vocals expertly navigating the musical theatre classic that is ‘Tomorrow,’ whilst working expertly with the canine star of the show Amber (Sandy) - plenty of treats go a long way.
Several members of the adult cast do manage to inject effervescence in the show, notably Paul French and Billie-Kay as Rooster and Lily respectively pack a sneering punch as they hatch the devilish plan to impersonate Annie’s parents. The pair ooze menace and sleaze and carry a sense of direction where the rest of the production is lacking. Alex Bourne (Daddy Warbucks) and Amelia Adams (Grace Farrell) bring much of the heart to the production, their care for Annie affirming and tender through kind and nuanced performances.
For many Annie will forever be a favourite musical and this production though tired will not tarnish that position, but there needs to be better care for shows such as these as they meander up and down the country for weeks on end to ensure the production that closes the run is the same as the one that began it. The sun may have come out, but greyish clouds have stopped it from fully shining.
Touring until 25th November - Tickets
Photography - Paul Coltas