There were quite a few clues that we were going to see a “family” show: the hordes of little girls in pretty dresses was the first; the sign advertising booster cushions for rent was a second. “I think I’m the only 36-year-old male in the entire theatre,” Craig commented. The audience was certainly skewed female, a lot of them under the age of 12.
And fair enough, really, given that we were at London‘s Picadilly Theatre to see Annie, a musical about an 11-year-old girl. If you don’t know the story, Annie’s parents abandon her as a baby and she grows up in an orphanage, forced to work all day for the awful Miss Hannigan but holding out hope that her parents will be back for her. The billionaire Oliver Warbucks falls for Annie and conducts a nationwide search to find her parents, and she’s on the brink of being taken away by a pair of tricksters when the President finds out the truth — Annie’s parents really are dead; she’s an orphan after all. Luckily Oliver Warbucks wants to adopt her and the story has a happy ending — especially because Miss Hannigan is taken away to prison along with the false parents.
I wasn’t too convinced by the start of the show — some of the songs seemed a bit screechy and the American accents overdone. But as the show went on, I enjoyed it more and more: the costumes were fantastic and the dancing excellent.
There were plenty of fun moments in the show, too: when the dog (Sandy) decided to have a good scratch in the middle of a song; the intentionally bad singing of the politicians when Annie encourages them to think about “tomorrow”, the fact that I overheard a fifty year-old man singing under his breath on the way out.
Since Annie and the six other orphans are played by child actors, they are limited to the number of days they can perform. This means you’re not guaranteed to see any particular Annie when you go to the show, and advertising doesn’t tend to capitalize on the actor in the main role as is common for many other shows. Instead, advertising has recently focused on the actor in the role of Miss Hannigan — Miranda Hart earlier this year, and Craig Revel Horwood for a ten-week run that included our visit.
I enjoyed his interpretation of the role, and wondered how Miranda Hart’s would have differed. That’s one of the joys of live theatre, of course, that every performer brings something unique to the role; that each performance is different to the last. The political undertone of the story also added something for the adults in the audience, dealing as it did with the Great Depression and featuring Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Overall, I found Annie to be an enjoyable show, with something to appreciate for everyone in the audience — though perhaps most for the “little girls” that Miss Hannigan sings about. So if you find yourself spending time with a 7-12 year-old female in the near future, it’s a great way to spend the evening.
Note: we were provided with complimentary tickets to the show by From the Box Office, but all opinions are my own. Photos were provided.