The sun really has come out at New Wimbledon Theatre with musical classic Annie on its stage – it certainly had me leaving fully dressed with a smile.
Set in 1933 New York, 11-year-old Annie has been at an orphanage run by the evil, gin-swigging Miss Hannigan since birth, but has always dreamed of her real parents returning to her.
One day she is plucked from her life of squalor to spend the Christmas holidays in the lap of luxury courtesy of billionaire Oliver Warbucks.
While initially a scam to get him to appear more likeable, Warbucks’ tough shell starts to crack by this little girl’s charm and he decides to adopt her.
However Miss Hannigan, played by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, and her con-artist brother Rooster are none too happy about Annie’s new life on Easy Street.
Together they hatch a truly wicked scheme to get the reward money Warbucks is offering to find Annie’s parents, intending to then kill the girl and make off with the cash.
Isabella Pappas rightly steals the show as Annie who has only previously performed once before on stage, earning an Olivier nomination for her role of Iris in The Nether.
At only 12 years old, she manages to belt out classics like Tomorrow and Maybe with amazing power and projection and plays the part with such heart she earns the only standing ovation of the night.
Her motley crew of orphan girls, dubbed ‘Team Astoria’ in a set of three rotations of children, displayed enough infectious energy that even my mum was singing along to It’s a Hard Knock Life.
Alex Bourne and Holly Dale Spencer make a great duo as Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks and his devoted PA Grace Farrell.
They share a lovely chemistry with Isabella’s Annie to make you truly love the family piecing together before your eyes.
This is reflected nicely with Colin Richmond’s set design of puzzle pieces that form a New York map.
While there’s no question Craig Revel Horwood can sing and dance beautifully, unfortunately I felt his acting skills, particularly the intended New York accent that sometimes came out a little Liverpudlian, didn’t quite match up to his cast mates.
If I were to rate his performance, like he would say on Strictly, “It’s a six from me, darling.”
Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph will be pulling on the stockings in his place each Saturday while Craig heads to the BBC for his judging duties.
Directed by Nikolai Foster, the whole production is feel-good fun for all the family, and you’ll be guaranteed to be singing the hits on the train all the way home.
Annie is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre until November 14.
Pictures courtesy of Hugo Glendinning, with thanks