You can bet your bot­tom dol­lar you'll love An­nie

Fam­ily-favourite An­nie stopped off in Bucks as part of a UK tour as CAMILLA GOOD­MAN saw

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - REVIEW -

THE new pro­duc­tion of An­nie, which came to Ayles­bury Water­side Theatre, is a real ray of sun­shine.

I’ve only ever seen bits and pieces of the 1982 An­nie film, so I was look­ing for­ward to see­ing the story play out in full. How­ever, what I was not ex­pect­ing was just how much I would en­joy it.

An­nie has been tread­ing the boards for al­most 40 years since its de­but on Broad­way in 1977, but the show did not seem dated or tired, it felt fresh, new and vi­brant.

Those I have spo­ken to who have seen pre­vi­ous pro­duc­tions of An­nie, in­clud­ing Birds of a Feather star Les­ley Joseph as Miss Han­ni­gan, have praised the cre­ators of this pro­duc­tion for up­dat­ing the show and re­fresh­ing it.

Set in 1930s New York dur­ing The Great De­pres­sion, brave young An­nie is forced to live a life of misery and tor­ment at Miss Han­ni­gan’s or­phan­age.

De­ter­mined to find her real par­ents, her luck changes when she is cho­sen to spend Christ­mas at the res­i­dence of fa­mous bil­lion­aire, Oliver War­bucks. Spite­ful Miss Han­ni­gan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil An­nie’s search.

An­nie has all the right in­gre­di­ents for a smash hit mu­si­cal, with its plot, score and witty script - how­ever this new pro­duc­tion makes it even more than that with a spec­tac­u­lar set, beau­ti­ful cos­tumes, lovely 1920s/30s style chore­og­ra­phy, clever light­ing and an ex­tremely tal­ented cast.

There are three teams play­ing An­nie and the or­phans on the UK tour. I went to see the show on open­ing night at Ayles­bury Water­side Theatre on Mon­day, March 14 and we had Team Tif­fany, which sees the amaz­ing Made­line Hayes play the ti­tle role. She truly is a lit­tle star. She made a great An­nie, did a per­fect New York ac­cent and she had the best singing voice I have ever heard some­one her age have.

Mark my words, Made­line Hayes has a huge ca­reer ahead of her. Re­mem­ber her name.

The other or­phans in Team Tif­fany were also amaz­ing and gave a flaw­less per­for­mance of Hard Knock Life and You’re Never Fully Dressed With­out a Smile.

Alex Bourne was per­fect for the role of Daddy War­bucks and was great at de­vel­op­ing the Bil­lion­aire’s char­ac­ter. He also had a stun­ning singing voice.

Birds of a Feather star Les­ley Joseph was a bril­liant Miss Han­ni­gan and brought plenty of comic relief to the show.

Les­ley said she was try­ing to make this ver­sion of Miss Han­ni­gan like­able, and she has suc­ceeded. I did not ‘hate’ this ver­sion of Miss Han­ni­gan, I ac­tu­ally liked her and felt sorry for her.

It was her good for noth­ing brother Rooster who I dis­liked the most, but of course I loved the ac­tor play­ing the part, Jonny Fines, who did a great job.

The only crit­i­cism I have of Les­ley Jospeh, and in fact the whole show, is that some­times her New York ac­cent was a bit off and a bit of Bri­tish or some­times Aus­tralian came through.

How­ever, she played the part so well that it was easy to for­give her for the mi­nor slip ups.

I must also men­tion Holly Dale Spencer who played Grace Farrell, be­cause she was fan­tas­tic.

An­other cast mem­ber who de­serves a men­tion is Am­ber the Labradoo­dle who played Sandy. She was adorable and very well trained.

The old show­biz say­ing goes ‘never work with chil­dren or an­i­mals,’ but An­nie proves that is not true.

Of course, the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple know a few hits from An­nie, such as To­mor­row (which lit­tle Made­line did per­fectly, by the way) and Hard Knock Life, but I was sur­prised how many songs I ac­tu­ally knew, such as Easy Street, Maybe and I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here. This show re­ally does have a great sound­track.

An­other thing I ab­so­lutely loved in this pro­duc­tion was the set, which was made-up of jig­saw pieces with a map of New York on it and plenty of lights. It looked great.

Also the set tran­si­tions from some­where like the or­phan­age, to War­bucks’ home to the streets of New York were very slick and very ef­fec­tive.

When I spoke to Les­ley be­fore the show, she said it was per­fect for both chil­dren, oldies and ev­ery­one in be­tween - and she was not wrong.

There was a real mix of ages in the au­di­ence, which was lovely, and ev­ery­one was to­tally trans­fixed on the show with big smiles beaming on their faces. I ab­so­lutely loved An­nie. It is a top qual­ity show that will leave you long­ing for more.

An­nie will re­turn to Bucks on May 30 to June 4 at Mil­ton Keynes Theatre. Tick­ets cost £12.50 to £45. To book call 0844 871 7652 or visit www.at­gtick­ets.com/ mil­ton-keynes-theatre.

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