Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews



Michael Harrison and David Ian with Tulchin/Bartner, Michael Watt, Neil Laidlaw/Ramin Sabi , Wales Millennium Centre , August 19, 2019
Annie by Michael Harrison and David Ian with Tulchin/Bartner, Michael Watt, Neil Laidlaw/Ramin Sabi The standing ovation from the packed audience indicated that the show had made a big impact.
I didn’t feel the need to stand with them. There were many good things in the show,
particularly the music under the very lively direction of Daniel Griffin and the dance choreographed
by Nick Winston.

The story of this sad, heart-warming tale, set during the great depression in 1930s New York. ‘Little Orphan Annie’ was a comic strip that was circulating in America in 1924, just before America’s Great depression. Our story starts in an orphanage full of straggly dressed children. They may have had a lot to complain about but their strong nasal voices made it difficult to listen to them.

Enter their very nasty supervisor Miss Hannigan. The well-known face from ‘Come Dancing’ Craig Revel Horwood, he has a good crack at the role but he needs to give it a lot more animation and better audience focus.

Of course the star of the show is Annie herself. Mia Lakha brings Annie to life wonderfully. She sings and dances her way through the show with great charm and ability, a joy to watch. She’s had enough, so with her pack on her back she decides to leave to search for her parents. Horrible Hannigan drags her back but a nifty trick with the laundry man’s very large basket ensures she gets away.

She’s free now and meets a stray dog and they become good friends. She tells him things will get better ‘Tomorrow’. There’s a bit of fun with the dogcatcher. Little comic vignettes like this slip into the show from time to time and raise a smile.

Things don’t go well and a policeman returns her to the orphanage, where there is a visitor, Grace Farrell. She is assistant to the billionaire Oliver Warbucks. She is performed beautifully by Carolyn Maitland, singing with a fine clear voice and bringing genuine sincerity to her performance.

It seems Warbucks has decided he would like to take one of the orphans in to spend Christmas with him.
Annie goes and is given a great warm welcome by the staff at Warbucks Mansions. Annie responds ‘"I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here’. She meets Warbucks. He is given a gentle and very sincere performance by Alex Bourne. His ‘quiet’ singing voice is very engaging.

Annie decides she would like to go to the cinema, so off they go, Annie, Warbucks and Grace. They look out over New York as their magic seats fly them there, ‘NYC’. By now Annie and Warbucks are great friends.

He buys her an expensive locket but she cries when he offers it to her. The locket she is wearing is the only thing she has of her mother. Grace and the staff then pledge to find her parents no matter what it takes ‘You Won't Be An Orphan For Long’.

Now the baddies come on the scene. Back at the orphanage, Miss Hannigan's brother, Rooster, and his girlfriend, Lily, pay a visit. Miss Hannigan mentions that Annie is staying at a billionaire's house, and they think they could use this situation to their advantage, though they do not yet know how ‘Easy Street’.

They are a dodgy pair, a bit blandly played by Richard Meek and Jenny Gayner. Their bungling efforts fail.
Warbucks adopts Annie and takes her to meet President Roosevelt. Together they seem to get the American economy going again. Not a bad achievement for ‘Little Orphan Annie’.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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