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2003: Tour Reviews 
Henley-On-Thames Leisure
Swan Theatre, High Wycombe


Little orphan Annie is still touching the hearts and imaginations of audiences all over the world.

And the audience who arrived at the Wycombe Swan to see Annie on Tuesday was not disappointed - I bet there was not a dry eye in the house as Annie (Faye Spittlehouse) hit all the right notes in her extremely powerful rendition of the songs which tug at the heart strings.

The antics of the optimistic heroine intent on bringing out the best in people, crossing class barriers and creating lasting friendships, were played to perfection by Faye. A little person with a big voice and ability to win over hearts.

She was supported by an infectious energy from co-star Su Pollard as the ‘wicked’ - or rather pitiful and extremely amusing - Miss Hannigan.

Mark Wynter as Oliver Warbucks supplied the parental love and ultimately the happiness of our plucky little protagonist who is prepared to risk everything to find it.

A veritable army of orphans, waiting staff - and, who could forget, Sandy, the dog - make up the cast.

And they all contribute to the success and enduring nature of the poignant rags-to-riches story of the young girl who has no known last name and no material possessions other than half a locket and a note from her parents - but who triumphs through sheer willpower, hard work and the kindness of strangers.

Indulge yourself and restore your faith in human nature.
By Maria Brunsden 


Grimsby Gazette
Grimsby Auditorium


Whoever said never work with children or animals obviously hadn't met Annie.

Playing the young orphan, Faye Spittlehouse, from Lincoln, and her very real dog Sandy, stole the show and what a show to steal.

This song and dance spectacular was quite simply brilliant and a complete sell-out audience sat to the very end of the very last curtain call to clap and cheer an evening they didn't want to end.

The story of Annie is known to most. Her rags to happiness story is the stuff of dreams and yet the heartfelt story can still grip you and bring a tear to the eye.

This Chris Moreno production does all that and more. It is as professional as they come with a very strong cast, good sound - almost too loud at times, great lighting and a spectacular series of sets that change seamlessly within a few bars of cover music.

A small but very effective live band play the entire score throughout and from the first pure notes of the trumpet solo to start the opening overture you realise you have something special ahead.

It was all the more apparent when the audience spontaneously joined in to clap along the overture music for the start of Act Two - they were in party mood on a grand night out.

As mentioned, Faye Spittlehouse was the star and at age 11 she has boundless talent.

Alongside her, Su Pollard as Miss Hannigan, was a real delight.

She has a gorgeous singing voice and though typecast perhaps as Hi-de-Hi's Peggy, in this show she throws away that mantle with a role that adds humour and laughs at all times.

Mark Wynter as Daddy Warbucks is everything you expect from a consummate professional. This star of Cats and Phantom also lists Shakespearian leads in his repertoire.

He was the perfect foil for Annie while Louise English, who played the lead role of Sally Smith in the West End's Me and My Girl, plays Warbuck's secretary, Grace Farrell, to perfection.

As ever, the big songs are the ones you are humming as you drive home and Tomorrow is the one that brings a tear to the most stubborn eye, though It's a Hard Knock Life was my personal favourite.

The choreography by David Kort was second to none and was faultless from the young orphan ensemble to the full Warbucks household.

One of the most memorable songs is You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.

On that note I would have to say we all went home fully- dressed after a superb family show that left everyone, cast included, smiling and contented.

By David Peasgood


Middlesborough Evening Gazette/IC Teeside
Billingham Forum Theatre

Su Pollard is superb as drink-swilling, cane-wielding orphanage matron Miss Hannigan, in this feast of family fun. But as they say: If you want top spot, never play with dogs and children.

In this superb show with a 40-strong team of super troupers, there are plenty of them to steal the limelight.

Someone who did on opening night was 11-year-old Lucy Barker, from Lincoln, who alternates in the title role with Faye Spittlehouse.

She displayed the voice and confidence to bring heaps of audience admiration.

Adding to the enjoyment is Danny, one of the dogs.

This is a Depression era story about the hopes of an orphan whose bright optimism does wonders for a mega-rich man.

The show gets added zest from recording artist turned actor Mark Wynter, who plays super-rich Daddy Warbucks as if he owns the part.

Louise English, of Bugsy Malone film fame, sparkles as Grace Farrell, who wins the heart of the billionaire.

This is a welcome production and one to be proud of, that does much justice for the cause of keeping Billingham Forum as a regional asset.

By Eddie Johnson


Wolverhampton Gazette/Express & Star
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

All ages will love this, it's a belter

Audiences at the Grand this week are in for a huge theatrical treat in this wonderfully well-played take on the much-loved rags-to-riches tale of New York orphan Annie. 

From the word go, this rendition of the popular musical is a total belter. 

Su Pollard's portrayal of the tatty, mean-spirited orphanage matron Miss Agatha Hannigan was one of the neatest, most finely-tuned comic turns I have seen in the theatre for years. 

As a copper-bobbed Annie, 11-year-old Lucy Barker was a dream - a little girl with a big voice and remarkable stage presence for one so young. 

Mark Wynter made for a suitably warm and striking, Daddy Warbucks - the billionaire who rescues Annie from the orphanage. 

The team of talented young girls from Wolverhampton's Samantha Guinness Drama School did themselves proud as the orphans on the catchy It's The Hard Knock Life, while Sedgley's own Matthew Hewitt as arch-villain Rooster Hannigan had his best moment during Easy Street with Su Pollard and Amanda Sim as his dodgy girlfriend Lily St Regis. 

With a first-rate supporting cast, this is tremendous stuff - audiences of all ages will simply love it. The show runs until Saturday.

By Joe Sweeney


Edinburgh Evening News
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Local talent helps put Annie on Easy Strret

The heartfelt storyline and a little local talent help this touring production of Annie rise above its raucous musical presentation and stilted direction. 

After all, who could fail to be touched as this copper-bobbed eleven year-old is lifted from her role as do-gooder of the orphanage to wealthy industrialist’s adopted daughter and presidential adviser on the New Deal to Roosevelt himself? 

It does help that there are a couple of really rather memorable songs in the show, with Tomorrow and Easy Street. But by putting a competent child in the title role, employing a halfway decent cast, and setting the show on the road, you are bound to have good houses wherever you go. 

This particular production has the added benefit of Su Pollard as the vile, alcoholic matron of the orphanage, Miss Hannigan. It is a role which was created with the awareness that the actress playing it can be as outrageous as she wants without fear of upstaging the orphanage full of kids and two cute dogs already on stage. 

To her credit, Su Pollard manages to do exactly that. Every time she comes on, despite doing nothing more than being the Su Pollard we have seen many times before, she is the focus of all attention on stage. 

In terms of production values, this is also one of the better touring musicals to grace the stage of the Festival. It is slick and well-thought through, with each scene moving, hand in glove, to the next one. 

Unfortunately this mechanical ethos has also been applied by director Chris Colby to the acting. Faye Spittlehouse, who alternates with Lucy Barker in the title role, is an admirable actress and singer. Yet even if she never puts a foot wrong, her direction has been so regimented that she performs with all the attraction of a singing doll. 

Not so, however, the nine local girls who play the orphans. They are far and away the best thing on the stage. Without going over the top, they produce performances which are both memorable and fitting for the show. The singing is tuneful and their dance routines, the odd glance to the side apart, spot on. 

In the peripheral adult roles, Mark Wynter provides a solid presence as Daddy Warbucks, the billionaire industrialist who adopts Annie. Louise English is equally competent as his secretary, who befriends Annie the first time she sees her and Matthew Hewitt in the role of the evil Rooster Hannigan has an natural presence and movement, which makes the most of the Easy Street number. 

A production which presses the right buttons, but not one to convince those not already in love with the show. 

By Thom Dibdin

Theatreworld Internet Magazine
Theatre Royal Windsor

A little early, perhaps, as a Christmas show, this touring production of Annie is not just for the Festive Season but suitable for at any time of the year - to present to children who always enjoy a good yarn, or to adults for whom musicals over the past decades have become the most popular form of theatrical entertainment. 

Certainly, that's how English audiences felt 25 years ago when the London premiere of Annie at the Victoria Palace Theatre in May 1978 was followed by 1,485 performances. And now, at Windsor this week, Chris Moreno's revival has been enthusiastically received on the first night. 

Directed by Chris Colby, its large cast includes the down-and-outs and others of the unemployed characters of the street life of New York of the Depression years of the 1930s, as well as the smart servants employed in a rich man's household. The billionaire owner is Oliver Warbucks, played by Mark Wynter who sings and acts splendidly alongside Louise English as his charming and resourceful secretary Grace Farrell. 

Because her boss has been looking for an orphan to invited home for Christmas, Grace has chosen Annie, and despite OW's initial disappointment that Annie is not a boy, he readily takes to her and when she tells him she has left the orphanage to look for her parents, he organises a nation-wide search. This involves her taking part in a popular radio programme, hosted by Bert Healy, amusingly played by James Gavin, and this is one of the best scenes in the play. 

The demanding role of Annie is played on alternate nights by Lucy Barker/ Faye Spittlehouse - both eleven years olds, the same age as that of orphan Annie when she absconded from the New York orphanage to go in search of her long-lost parents. Their stirring vocal items include "Tomorrow" (expressing Annie's optimism) and "Maybe", in which Annie longs to be reunited with her parents (the latter song was one of the best show tunes of the 1970s). 

At the orphanage, Annie's ten fellow kiddies boisterously sing "It's a Hard-knock Life" as they scrub the floors and disobey the wicked orphanage matron Miss Hannigan. The caricature role of the alcoholic bully is comically played by Su Pollard. 

Miss Hannigan's villainous brother Rooster (Matthew Hewitt) and his moll Lily (Amanda Sim) amusingly pose as Annie's lost parents so as to claim a $50,000 reward. But the fraudulent pair are exposed, when it is discovered by the FBI that Annie's parents died some time ago. 

After Annie has an with President Roosevelt, Warbucks makes arrangements to adopt Annie and the show ends with her fellow orphans being invited to share in a wonderful Christmas day of celebrations, as America looks forward to future prosperity and a New Deal. 

By George Cranford


Birmingham Evening Post/IC Birmingham
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Annie is an enchanting tale of a poor orphan who dreams of escaping the confines of her New York City orphanage and the cruel Miss Hannigan.

She wants a better life with her real mother and father and believes that they are sure to come and find her someday.

However, fate shines down on the 11 year old and she gets the opportunity to spend Christmas with New York tycoon and billionaire Oliver Warbucks who becomes very fond of Annie.

But as an orphan himself, he understands her longing to meet her real parents and he starts a nationwide search which leads Annie to the truth about her family.

The heart-warming story is carried along nicely with the help of plenty of classic songs including It's a Hard Knock Life, I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here, Easy Street, Little Girls and of course, Tomorrow.

Annie stars Su Pollard who is very funny as mean and scheming Miss Hannigan and Mark Wynter (singer of '60s hit, Venus In Blue Jeans) as Daddy Warbucks who provides a wonderful performance, but the star of the show is Lucy Barker who is delightful as cheeky Annie.

With a great ensemble cast of adults, children and animals, and extravagant scenery, Annie is a must see musical with all the ingredients of a great family night out.

By Rebecca Shipley


The Scotsman
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Bet your bottom dollar that this production of the perennial favourite will go down a storm with audiences. It’s hard to go wrong with showstoppers such as It’s the Hard Knock Life, You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile and, of course, Tomorrow, but without decent adults the tidal wave of orphan moppets can rot the teeth a tad. 

And decent adults there were. Su Pollard offered a barnstorming comic turn as orphan boss Miss Hannigan, though her make-up - blue grime and the red nose of the habitual drunk - may scare children. Mark Wynter brought presence and a terrific voice to billionaire Oliver Warbucks, and Louise English was grace itself as his PA, er, Grace. Matthew Hewitt was as slimy a Rooster as anyone could wish, and James Gavin a delight as radio star Bert Healey, with their big numbers, Easy Street and ... Without a Smile respectively, showstoppers. 

As Annie, Faye Spittlehouse was perfect - spunky and endearing without being irritating. And the orphans of the Mary Erskine School were actually an appealing lot, though at times they - like the adults - struggled to be heard against the orchestration. If someone turns down the volume a notch, you’re guaranteed a fabulous night. 

By Martin Gray

Jersey Insight
Jersey Opera House

An impressive full house at the Opera House last night were treated to a fun-filled family piece of theatre, which, complete with a balloons dropping from the ceiling, saw kids screaming delightedly with laughter and leaving with grins from ear-to-ear. So too did a great many adults after watching an evening’s light entertainment and pantomime-style humour, but its got to be said, in my opinion, this is one for the kids.

With hugely popular songs like ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Someday’, Annie is always a winner and true to form all the songs were performed with vigour and volume, particularly from Little Annie herself, whose voice was incredibly strong. Louise English as Grace Farrell, Mark Wynter as Oliver Warbucks and Su Pollard as Miss Hannigan performed equally well vocally, but on occasions I felt the direction could have been a little more varied to just bring that extra magical musical sparkle to life. Equally, I felt the acting lacked direction at times, forcing the pace of some text heavier scenes to drop, in particular the scene where Warbucks tries to give Annie a new locket from Tiffany’s. However, perhaps I’m being too critical (definitely was the reply of my colleague who reminded me you don’t go to musicals for the high-quality acting), but beside the songs, I’ve got to admit I was a bit disappointed. 

I found the majority of characters were only loosely established and behind the thin layer of hammed-up, over-acting, there was little substance. The film Annie often reduces me to tears and the tension produced between feeling sorry for and hating Miss Hannigan, as well as detesting the hard-business side to Warbucks and loving his kind Father tendencies, produce a far more diverse account of Annie. That character tension was not present last night, as there was no doubt we were meant to love Oliver Warbucks and hate Miss Hannigan and for me, personally, this resulted in a less-powerful production. Nevertheless, sterling performances did come from Rooster Hannigan aka Matthew Hewitt and his Sister’s desperate sexual advances provided the show with a lot of humour. The caring Grace Farrell smiled and hugged Annie in all the right places and Warbucks’ loud booming voice as a man of power and authority was very convincing.

It was also wonderful to see a 40 strong cast and this greatly boosted the atmosphere of the show and swept it along, particularly the well-choreographed servant scenes in Daddy Warbuck’s mansion. What a wonderful surprise it was to also see several local girls starring along side this professional cast, as Miss Hannigan’s other orphans. Singing, dancing and acting, they did us proud and definitely deserved the loud cheers they got in the finale. The show’s set was also fantastic and worthy of any West End Stage, as was the sound system, which boomed out those musical favourite with appropriate gusto. However, whether it was the actors or the system I’m not sure, but I’ve got to admit those high-pitched American whines did become grating by the interval and a little more variation in pitch from Miss Hannigan and Annie in particular, would have been easier on the ears.

Nonetheless, it was a feel-good portrayal of this heartfelt tale and I’m sure some would argue the pitch was necessary for the comic and over-exaggerated style of acting. For me personally, I like musicals with some more substance between the songs, but if you want to be entertained, sing along, and have a good giggle then Annie is well worth watching.

By Stephanie Parker

2002: Tour Reviews 

The Stage
Theatre Royal, Lincoln

Jemma Carlisle and Su Pollard in Annie at the Theatre Royal, Lincoln. 

To say that Chris Moreno's production of this perennial favourite brings the Theatre Royal house down would be no false statement. The audience loved it and Jemma Carlisle as Annie steals the show. All credit to her because it takes some stealing and her success is a tribute to her talents which include singing, dancing and acting her heart out. 

Su Pollard as Miss Hannigan and Mark Wynter as Oliver Warbucks are the big stars and use all their experience to make this a show to remember. They are very ably aided and abetted by a high-quality support cast, all of which deserve individual mention were there the space available. 

The direction of Chris Colby, David Kort's choreography and Mark Crossland's musical direction pull together with excellent lighting and sets to make this a production worthy of any West End stage. 

Every song and production number is greeted with enthusiasm by the audience. There were few who would not willingly sit through it all again. 

This production of Annie tours the UK until the end of November and anyone with the foresight to buy a ticket will not be disappointed. The sun doesn't wait until tomorrow to come out – it shines all over the stage. 

By Bernard Bale


This Is Lancashire
Grand Theatre , Blackpool

Pollard enjoys tomorrow's success today 

Never work with children or animals, so the old saying goes. But there's always an exception to the rule... 

Monday's performance of Annie at Blackpool's Grand Theatre was vibrant, entertaining, and over-the-top, with no doggy disasters or precocious child stars. The storyline's not up to much. After a poor start in the 30s Depression and a ruthless kidnap plot, little orphan Annie is adopted by a billionaire. Cue brash, happy ending. 

But with such belting numbers as It's The Hard Knock Life, You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile and Tomorrow it's hard not to keep humming the tunes for days afterwards. The adult characters were full of (and a bit larger than) life, particularly Matthew Hewitt's menacing Rooster Hannigan, and of course Su Pollard's no-holds-barred Miss Hannigan (she has a great singing voice, by the way). 

The orphans were worldly-wise, sang in tune, and danced and acted well without lapsing into schmaltz. And Jemma Carlisle played Annie with a really right, expressive face, although her voice was a bit too strident for my liking. 

If you're looking for a toned down, grown-up show, this isn't it. But it's great fun for kids and a happy way to spend an evening. 



IC Coventry
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry 

The endearing tale of a little American orphan and her rags-toriches lifestyle is brought to life by a near 60-strong cast in Annie.

Childhood memories from the 1981 film came flooding back as Jemma Carlisle plays the title role in the show which tells the tale of a 12-year-old girl whose dream finally comes true when she is plucked from the cold, evil Miss Hannigan into the home of the warm, loving billion-aire ‘Daddy’ Warbucks.

Jemma and ‘Daddy’ - actor Mark Wynter - give outstanding performances which have the audience smiling one minute, their eyes filling up the next. Some may remember Miss Hannigan actress Su Pollard as downtrodden Peggy in 1980s comedy Hi-De-Hi.

Su gives an amazing performance with plenty of laughter-filled moments. Annie is an ideal show for anyone of any age and is altogether a good night out.

By Samantha Clark.


Reviews Gate
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry 

25 yrs old and can still weave its magic: Su Pollard in top form.

The most optimistic of all optimistic musicals, Annie, now more than 25 years old, continues to waft its spell. It has lively numbers, a heart-string pulling story and . . . most importantly . . . children and a dog.

Annie is set in the American depression. orphan Annie goes to spend Christmas with the fabulously wealthy Warbucks who adopts her. Attending one of President Roosevelt's cabinet meetings she even saves the country's failing economy by reminding the President 'The sun'll shine tomorrow'. The young people in the audience don't notice the unlikelihood of this political doctrine and adore the archetypal story of poor orphan who's saved into wealth and comfort.

Su Pollard leads the team in a more than whole-hearted performance as Miss Hannigan. It's vintage Pollard, great fun to see live and it's a shame the role doesn't offer her even more opportunities. She has a deliciously raunchy singing voice and I particularly liked her trio with arch villains Rooster (Matthew Hewitt) and Lily St Regis (Amanda Sim).

Young Jemma Carlisle brings a great naturalness and charm to Annie in a role that could otherwise be unbearably saccharine. Mark Wynter is a genuinely warm and friendly Oliver Warbucks.

By Rod Dungate.


This Is Worthing
Theatre Royal, Brighton

Su Pollard plays Miss Hannigan 

The sun'll come out tomorrow - if only. Though it may be wet and miserable, inside the Theatre Royal, there's enough sunshine and laughter to warm even the coldest of hearts. 

Jemma Carlisle plays little orphan Annie with plenty of gusto, singing and acting well - as do the rest of the orphans. With children and animals to compete with in this musical, the adults have to pull out all the stops. Louise English as Grace Farrell is pretty and charming and Mark Wynter as Daddy Warbucks brings great warmth to the role. 

Unfortunately, even with Annie joining in (and the backing of the entire cast), their combined charms fail to make NYC the show-stopping number it should be. It never quite gets off the ground and goes on for far too long. The same cannot be said of We'd Like To Thank You Herbert Hoover - a great song, well sung and simply but effectively choreographed by David Kort. 

The supporting cast does a marvellous job here and throughout the show, taking on a multitude of characters. 

It is, indeed, a complicated book with down-and-outs, radio stars, politicians and even President Roosevelt woven into the plot. It's all rather clever and the story highlights the grim reality of the Great Depression. 

Su Pollard plays Miss Hannigan, the alcohol-dependent, child-hating orphanage matron. She certainly has a healthy pair of lungs and this is one character where the more OTT you are, the better. 

I never really felt sympathy for her, though, and I always want Miss Hannigan to be one of those poor souls you feel life has just dealt a bum hand to. Unlike her bad apple of a brother, Rooster, nicely played by Matthew Hewitt and well supported by Amanda Sim as his girlfriend Lily St Regis. 

In reality, there are no bad apples in this cast - everyone plays their part well and the show sparkles as much as Daddy Warbucks' Christmas tree. 

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