Review: Annie Musical At Newcastle Theatre Royal
Everybody knows what to expect from Annie unless they’ve been living under a rock for the last 50 years when the first production of this heart-warming musical first appeared on Broadway and this new production from Crossroads Live does not disappoint. Annie – the musical started life as a cartoon strip telling the tale of a poor orphan girl who warms the hearts of a billionaire and various high-flying politicians to her adoption by the aforementioned money pants at the end of the piece.
As they enter this production, the audience could be forgiven for thinking that they had walked into a production of Matilda as the stage is draped with jigsaw pieces very reminiscent of the alphabet cubes used to adorn the stage of the Roald Dahlmusical adaptation in London. This is used to great effect with a superb lighting plot (Ben Cracknell) which transports the audience through Miss Hannigan’s orphanage to Hell’s Kitchen, via Oliver Warbeck’s mansion and even The White House.
This production dispenses with the overture and kicks offstraight into the action in the orphanage with the kids – who are adorable. It is not long before Paul O’Grady takes to the stage with a fantastic interpretation of the world-weary and alcoholic Miss Agatha Hannigan. O’Grady is very much the character and, despite the audience’s adulation, never staggers out of character or, to use theatre parlance, breaks the fourth wall.
Annie was beautifully portrayed and performed by Poppy Cunningham. This performance was delightful, and she sang beautifully to the pleasure of the packed theatre. Her gang of orphans who supported her throughout was also pitch perfect and enthralled from beginning to end. The supporting cast worked tirelessly to add a dimension to the story and there is clearly a good camaraderie within the company which floods out from the stage.
Our villains, Daniel ‘Rooster’ Hannigan (Paul French) and his girlfriend Lily St Regis (Billie Kay) are often over comedic in other productions. I would suggest that in this incarnation they are appropriately evil which makes their characters far more effective.
No production of Annie would be complete without Sandy the dog and she was portrayed by Lily from Urban Paws. In this production, Sandy does not have a lot to do but to make the audience go “ahh” and this canine actor did it to great effect.
I feel that the orchestra, who were superb, were underutilised,however, it was nice that the entr’acte was maintained to allow them to introduce the second act. This segues into the radio station scene and gives the exceptionally talentedensemble a chance to shine, enjoy themselves, and show off their undoubted talent.
Technically, this production is outstanding and very slick. The sound is great, the lighting carefully considered, and the scene changes are beautifully choreographed so that the scenes flow seamlessly into each other with crew duties being carried outlargely by the cast.
Annie is a perennial family favourite loved the world over and this production does not disappoint with some amazing choreography, fantastic costumes, and beautiful harmonies.
Having been sold out for the first two performances, this press night was on day three so there is only a few performancesleft to watch this at The Theatre Royal in Newcastle before it continues on its tour of the UK – so get your tickets while you can. That said, there are amazing productions heading to The Theatre Royal this year including ‘2.22: A Ghost Story’, ‘Spongebob Squarepants – The Musical’, the outrageously hilarious and wonderful ‘Noises Off’ and tap-dancing spectacular ‘42nd Street’ which are but a few of the programme on sale or going on general sale in the very near future.
Annie runs until Saturday 11th March at The Newcastle Theatre Royal, Newcastle.
– Stephen Stokoe
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