Wednesday 1 March 2023


 Curve, Leicester

28th February 2023


‘Don't it feel like the wind is always howlin’?
Don't it seem like there's never any light?’


While I have fond childhood memories of wearing out an old VHS of the 1982 film adaptation of Annie (a double cassette with Oliver!), I’ve never seen the classic musical on stage. So for old fans and newcomers alike, this new tour of Nikolai Foster’s revival, which started life at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2011, is a solid production, showcasing all the well-loved songs while adding a pinch of Matilda-esque punch thanks to some imaginative design and sharp choreography. The story of the little red-haired orphan in search of her parents is simple, well-paced and very sweet, if bordering on saccharine (the stuff with FDR stuck me as bizarre even as a child!). Throw in some cute kids and a scene-stealing dog, and Foster and co. have a sure-fire hit on their hands.

Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin’s score has lost none of its charm and those standards of the musical-songbook (‘Hard Knock Life’, ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Easy Street’, ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile’, etc.) are served well by a committed ensemble and some smashing choreography from Nick Winston. An early stand out number situates the musical in a much more political sphere than I’d anticipated. ‘Hooverville’, a satirical ‘up yours’ sung by the homeless community of NYC, lambasts the policy-makers of the day and (light-heartedly) highlights the everyday suffering brought on by the Depression. Unfamiliar to me (the number doesn’t feature in the film) this was a surprising and very welcome (albeit short-lived) segue into more adult wit and thematic substance. From thereon in the musical reverts to fantastical realism, with an emphasis on the fantastical - Colin Richmond’s set features stretched looming doorways dominating the orphanage, while oversized furniture and art deco glitz characterises the Warbucks house. Richmond’s sets are embellished by chalkboard drawings and giant puzzle piece prosceniums, and this filtering of the action through the lens of child’s play ultimately tempers the more cloying elements of the plot.

As ever, the abundance of talent on offer from the youngsters in the cast is inspiring. Carrying the show on her small but mighty shoulders, Zoe Akinyosade is an assured, sweet and down-to-earth Annie. She is endearing and has the audience on side from the off. Alex Bourne and Amelia Adams provide strong support as a rather soft and fuzzy Daddy Warbucks and glamorous-yet-practical Grace Farrell, respectively. Yet star-billing is reserved for Craig Revel Horwood’s beleaguered, bosom-adjusting fishwife Miss Hannigan. Revel Horwood plays a fine drunk and is clearly having a ball in the role, despite occasionally being upstaged by charismatic turns from Paul French and Billie-Kay as Hannigan’s dastardly brother, Rooster and girlfriend Lily St Regis.

Annie safely remains a solid family-friendly show, and a perfect introduction to theatre for young children. The production is in safe hands as the creative team maximises the musical’s plus points while also highlighting some perhaps previously overlooked elements. The production is both contemporary and nostalgic and it most certainly had me tapping my toes and humming the tunes as we exited the theatre. As a tonic to those late-winter blues Annie is a sugary dose of escapism that entices broad smiles and warm hearts. With a roster of names set to don the Miss Hannigan mantle throughout the tour (Paul O’Grady, Jodie Prenger and Elaine C Smith are all due to step into the role), there is plenty to keep fans intrigued and I’ll be interested to hear how the show evolves over time.

Annie plays at Curve, Leicester until 4th March 2023.

For full tour dates please visit:

Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan in Annie. Credit: Paul Coltas

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