Theatre, High Wycombe
SHED A TEAR WITH ANNIE
Annie is still touching the hearts and
imaginations of audiences all over the world.
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.
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
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
yourself and restore your faith in human nature.
GUARANTEED TO BRING A TEAR TO YOUR EYE
never work with children or animals obviously
hadn't met Annie.
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.
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
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.
Faye Spittlehouse was the star and at age 11 she
has boundless talent.
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
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.
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.
Evening Gazette/IC Teeside
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.
the voice and confidence to bring heaps of
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
The show gets
added zest from recording artist turned actor
Mark Wynter, who plays super-rich Daddy Warbucks
as if he owns the part.
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.
Gazette/Express & Star
All ages will
love this, it's a belter
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
From the word
go, this rendition of the popular musical is a
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.
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.
made for a suitably warm and striking, Daddy
Warbucks - the billionaire who rescues Annie from
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.
first-rate supporting cast, this is tremendous
stuff - audiences of all ages will simply love
it. The show runs until Saturday.
By Joe Sweeney
helps put Annie on Easy Strret
storyline and a little local talent help this
touring production of Annie rise above its
raucous musical presentation and stilted
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
industrialists adopted daughter and
presidential adviser on the New Deal to Roosevelt
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
which presses the right buttons, but not one to
convince those not already in love with the
By Thom Dibdin
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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
Evening Post/IC Birmingham
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
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
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,
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
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.
Bet your bottom
dollar that this production of the perennial
favourite will go down a storm with audiences.
Its hard to go wrong with showstoppers such
as Its 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
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
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,
youre guaranteed a fabulous night.
By Martin Gray
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
evenings light entertainment and
pantomime-style humour, but its got to be said,
in my opinion, this is one for the kids.
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 Tiffanys. However,
perhaps Im being too critical (definitely
was the reply of my colleague who reminded me you
dont go to musicals for the high-quality
acting), but beside the songs, Ive 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
Sisters 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
Warbucks mansion. What a wonderful surprise
it was to also see several local girls starring
along side this professional cast, as Miss
Hannigans other orphans. Singing, dancing
and acting, they did us proud and definitely
deserved the loud cheers they got in the finale.
The shows 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 Im not sure, but
Ive 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.
was a feel-good portrayal of this heartfelt tale
and Im 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