Review – Annie, Mayflower
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Review – Annie at The Mayflower, Southampton
Visitors to The Mayflower are taking a journey to New York city this week as ‘Annie’ swings into town. Direct from a run in London’s West End, the Tony award-winning musical of hard-knocks and chosen family is a family-favourite not to be missed.
Three groups of young actors share the sizeable task of portraying the orphans throughout the UK tour, and three actors are also taking turns to bring the title character of Annie to life.
Tonight, at The Mayflower we’re treated to a performance starring Freya Yates, whose skilful singing and joyful energy are evident from her first entrance.
Strictly Come Dancing judge, Craig Revel Horwood, takes on the role of tyrannical orphanage director Miss Hannigan, in a performance which could have very easily been pantomime dame-esque, but which he instead successfully pulls off which a combination of comedic flair and delightful wickedness.
Other notable performances come from Alex Bourne as billionaire Oliver Warbucks, whose demonstrable affection for Annie is very endearing.
Carolyn Maitland is classy as Warbucks’ secretary Grace Farrell, and Richard Meek and Jenny Gayner earn their boos and hisses during the curtain call in their roles as dastardly con-artists Rooster and Lily.
Last but not least is Amber the Labradoodle, whose every appearance on stage as Sandy the stray dog is met with audible delight from the audience, especially the younger theatre-goers!
Much more is made of the history and significance of the Great Depression in this stage production than in the 1982 film, which starred Aileen Quinn and Albert Finney and was largely, despite the sombre period, a very glamorous affair.
In this production, which is based on a version originally created at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, Annie, following her escape from the orphanage, wanders into a ‘Hooverville’, one of many shanty-towns into which thousands of displaced, unemployed Americans were forced in the early 1930s as a result of the banking collapse.
This focus on the historical context breathes depth into the story, taking us beyond the hardships of one young girl, bringing Annie’s shining optimism into sharper relief.
Despite a few issues with the sound – there are moments early on when the younger actors’ voices struggle to be heard over the sheer volume of the orchestra – the popular songs definitely hit home; Freya Yates’ rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ is particularly impressive. It’s lovely to see the many children in the audience so captivated by someone their own age holding the Mayflower’s considerable stage.
Annie is at The Mayflower until Saturday 4th May.
Images: Paul Coltas