Here Amy takes in Annie at the New Theatre, Oxford…
I’m a musical theatre fan. I think I’ve already seen four shows this year; considering March has only just begun some might say that’s a bit excessive. But I’ve never seen Annie and, quite frankly, never planned to.
I have a really vivid memory of watching Annie on Channel 5 one rainy Sunday afternoon when I was very little and being scared. Scared of what exactly I’m not sure – Miss Hannigan, her brother, the shrill tones of a chorus of 1930s New York orphans? I don’t think I watched the film to the end, and since then have never picked up the movie or listened to the soundtrack again.
However, seeing Annie at The New Theatre Oxford has totally changed my opinion of this beloved musical.
It’s hard to resist the joy of a stunning take on ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’, all orphan attitude and sharp choreography. Anita Dobson’s (EastEnders, Strictly Come Dancing) Miss Hannigan is performed with razor-sharp humour and physical comedy.
The whole cast is superb. Richard Meek (Rocky Horror, Thoroughly Modern Millie) cuts a dastardly Rooster and Gary Davis creates a wonderful caricature of President Roosevelt – but perhaps all performances are shaded by Carolyn Maitland (Ghost, Miss Saigon) making the most of the straightest role of the show, Daddy Warbuck’s assistant and love interest, Grace Farrell.
My personal highlight of the performance was the choreography. It’s been a while since I’ve seen traditional Broadway jazz and tap performed so well in a touring production, so a special shout out goes to the ensemble cast.
You, of course, have to take the show with a pinch of salt. The idea that an Irish orphan somehow inspired President Roosevelt to create The New Deal with a group rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ is just a tad abstract – but this doesn’t take away from the fun of the show.
As well as the traditional jazz dancing, and performances of Anita Dobson, Carolyn Maitland, and the wonderful Taziva-Faye Katsande as Annie, what I also loved about the production was the audience. It was filled with mums, dads, grandmas, and grandpas bringing their young children to their first show.
The small girl sat directly in front of me audibly gasped when the young actors started performing Hard Knock Life, she was enthralled and I couldn’t help but think maybe another avid musical fan like myself had just been born…
Annie is at the New Theatre Oxford until Saturday 9th March and you can find other tour dates here: https://www.anniethemusicaltour.uk/tour-dates