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Annie, Opera House, Manchester

ANNIE - Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan with Annie and Sandy - Photo credit Hugo Glendinning (1)Set in New York during The Great Depression of the 1930s when the Stock Exchange crashed with a third of the nation’s companies going bust, leaving 15 million people unemployed.

Millions lost their savings when the banks collapsed, leaving them penniless and homeless and living on the streets, and some children found themselves orphaned in the crisis.

Young Annie (Madeleine Haynes) finds herself suffering a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage but she’s determined to find her real parents after being left as a baby on the orphanage steps ten years earlier.

The musical opens with a scene set in the orphanage at night, in the bedroom shared by all the young girls, where young Annie tries to keep everyone quiet as she plans to run away. But she’s rumbled when Miss Hannigan (Craig Revel Horwood), in a drunken stupor, bursts in to see what all the noise is about.

Craig Revel Horwood (judge on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing) played Miss Hannigan as larger than life character. His New York accent and drunken swagger were convincing, menacing, and amusing, all at the same time, as he knocked back the gin. He shines in the well-choreographed Easy Street dance scene with Miss Hannigan’s snide brother, Rooster (Jonny Fines), and his girlfriend Lily (Djalenga Scott).

After escaping to the back streets, Annie joins the homeless and befriends loveable Labradoodle, Sandy. When stopped by a police officer, she has to prove it’s her dog by calling him over. With a wagging tail, Sandy bounds across the stage to a big cheer from the audience. Sandy delights the audience with several appearances during the show.

Eventually the Police catch up with Annie and return her to Miss Hannigan’s orphanage where spiteful Miss Hannigan schemes to stop Annie finding her parents.

We meet Grace Farrell (Holly Dale Spencer) assistant to billionaire Daddy Warbucks (Alex Bourne) who has been sent to choose an orphan to spend Christmas at his 5th Avenue mansion. Madeleine Haynes (Annie) and
Alex Bourne (Warbucks) have natural on-stage chemistry and the pair’s scenes with his assistant, Grace, (Holly Dale Spencer) work well.

Madeleine was brilliant as Annie, full of fun, mischief, energy and cheeky one-liners. She excelled with her dancing but most of all with her beautifully-controlled vocals, especially on the big hit song, Tomorrow.

The audience warmed to this young star and, at times, it was hard to remember she was just 11-years-old.
Annie is brimming with big numbers like I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here, I Don’t Need Anything But You and You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile but it’s the songs with Annie and her orphan friends that steal the show.

From the original Broadway Musical in 1977, Annie has been re-invented several times, notably, most recently, in the 2014 movie. This interpretation makes this much-loved story fresh and contemporary while also keeping the original charm of its New York setting and its emphasis on friendship.

Annie is at the Opera House in Manchester until Saturday 26th September. Ticket prices start from £15 and they’re available at www.atgtickets.com/Manchester or call 0844 871 3018.

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