Wednesday, 29 October 2014

ANNIE by Nottingham Operatic Society
Nottingham Theatre Royal

If you want to get those Christmassy juices flowing then this musical will do it for you, for several reasons. Not only the finale with the big Christmas Tree, snow, lights and presents but for that lovely warm feeling inside that this wonderful musical will leave you with, as you vacate the theatre.

"Annie" is the story of the little orphan who was dumped on the steps of an orphanage in 1922. Fast forward to 1933 and Annie has had enough of orphan life and decides to run away from the horrendous Miss Hannigan, who is in charge of the place. This escape fails and she is brought back by the police, but that is when her fortunes change and she is invited to stay with the billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Warbucks wants to adopt Annie but Annie wants to find her real parents. With the help of Oliver Warbucks, the truth is revealed about her past, and where her future lies.

There are two "Annies" taking turns to be orphaned this week and I saw Tilly Greentree on the opening evening performance, but knowing of the other Annie, Rosie Bentham, I know that whichever young actress you see, you will be in for a treat. Tilly has a beautiful clear voice and has great stage presence with just the right amount of cheek and attitude, appropriate to the role.

I have seen a few different performances of "Annie" and therefore a few different Miss Hannigans. I have seen Su Pollard playing Miss Hannigan and I have also seen Ruth Madoc playing Miss Hannigan. Tonight I saw Miss Hannigan played by Kate Williams.

Now for the eagle eyed readers you may have noticed a slightly different wording there, and this is deliberate because, while I have seen well known names being Miss Hannigan, tonight I saw Miss Hannigan as she should be portrayed. Not as the lush or the comedy characterization of someone who disliked the orphan kids, but the Miss Hannigan who leans more towards Cruella DeVille who likes a drink. A subtle difference between the Nottingham Operatic Society (NOS) version and any other version, and for me, Kate Williams played the role just right. the best Miss Hannigan I have ever seen. Not forgetting that Kate has a cracking voice as well as providing some marvellous facial expressions for the role!

Oliver Warbucks was played with just a slightly softer edge than some portrayals I have seen, and the perfect person to play this role was NOS regular, Simon Theobald, who actually decided to have his head shaved for his art as opposed to wearing a skull cap. Another actor with a wonderful voice and the light and shade of his singing tones are lovely to listen to.

Another character who I can't remember sticking out for me in any other production I have seen was Grace Farrell. She is the secretary to Warbucks, who sought out  the orphan to spend Christmas with him. Emma Shute played Grace and  think I will remember Emma for a while. Gorgeous to look at and what a beautiful voice.

Some sterling performances from Drew Dennis as Rooster, one of the baddies of the play and Alice Hands, as Lily, Rooster's partner in crime.

And then there are the kids. What gusto! What enthusiasm! What confidence! What voices! Such a strong team of young actors who in a few years will see some, if not all of them taking lead roles in musicals, I can see it now!

Not forgetting Sandy the dog, played by Whiz. The tail said it all. He/she seemed so happy to be taking part in "Annie" and the audience adoration (or should that be appaws) echoed around the walls of the theatre. This must have been a trip down memory lane for Whiz as he/she was unwanted by a previous owner and was adopted but that story also had a happy ending.

The songs you will know, "Tomorrow", "It's A Hard Knock Life" and "Maybe" as well as a song that I couldn't recall from past productions, "New Deal For Christmas"

Great sets, on point choreography from Lisa Lee, a wonderful orchestra under the direction of Stephen Williams, some smooth scenery and prop changes from the backstage crew all went to make this one of the best musicals I have seen at the Nottingham Theatre Royal for a while. Total professionalism from every one involved, whatever their age. It felt like I was watching a cinematic version of a big Hollywood blockbuster musical it was all so smooth and glossy, and you really could appreciate the hard work the Nottingham Operatic Society, as always in my experience, put into their shows.

"Annie" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 1 November 2014

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