They say don’t work with children or animals. Well, they certainly aren’t the issue in the London’s new production of Annie. The classic hit about the adorable, hard-done-by orphans of New York has a great attempt in becoming the next West End family hit, but misses the mark when led by comedy favourite Miranda Hart.
The poor girls of the orphanage are worked to the bone and hammered down by the wicked Miss Hannigan. Billionaire Mr Warbucks decides to take in an orphan over Christmas, with the positive-minded Annie being the lucky chosen one. He soon decides to help her find her parents, but when a $50,000 reward attracts every crook in the neighbourhood claiming Annie to be theirs, the pair soon discover the truth.
In a show like this the children often shine, and sure enough the group of young girls are full of energy from the first moment. Annie herself, played by Ruby Stokes, is truly confident and as cute as a button, belting out the big songs and carrying the show with ease. Quirky, fun and permanently spirited, the kids are a real asset to the production, although could use some work on diction at points. The youngest shows her true professionality after a mishap with a present leaves her miming holding a box for half a number – what a trooper! Even the dog follows his leads perfectly and plays up to the crowd during Tomorrow.
The adult ensemble can’t really compete but ably dress the show with some nice moments and appropriate choreography. Unfortunately the West End’s latest star casting doesn’t hit the mark. Miranda Hart, best known for her gawky comedy show character, just isn’t convincing as the nasty, child-hating villain Miss Hannigan, but not for lack of ability or lack of trying. Hart’s attempt at singing and dancing is admirable for someone with no musical theatre experience, although starkly and foolishly brought to attention when put next to professionals in certain numbers. She tries too hard to fall back to her comedy comfort zone and a lot of jokes just grind.
Overall the show is nice enough. The set is great and works really well with this particular show. Sadly you don’t feel yourself getting caught up in the rousing and upbeat message of positivity that Annie champions and a lot of time struggle to know where to look with some scenes being a bit too busy on an already busy stage. An enjoyable evening and some lovely moments but regrettably not the showstopper it could be.
Annie is showing at the Piccadilly Theatre, London, until 6th January 2018. Tickets available here.
Photo credit: Paul Coltas