Bristol Hippodrome

 

Annie - September 2015

 

More than 30 years ago I took my two oldest daughters to see Annie at the Bristol Hippodrome.

The date was December 1981 and they were aged 10 and 11 years.

This week I took a trio of granddaughters to see Annie at the Bristol Hippodrome.

They are aged seven, eight and 11 years.

Three decades later the classic musical which began as a Harold Gray comic strip in the New York Daily News and took its name from the 1885 poem Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley is still as popular having inspired over the years a radio show, several films and the Broadway show which premiered in 1977.

It is a heart-tugging, happy-ever-after, rags-to-riches story about a little orphan and her quest to find her parents.

However, set in the Great Depression of the 1930s there are dark undertones about unemployment and political power although these days it would also raise many child protection issues!

That said it is a super family show which spans the generations and has children of all eras full of superfluous words including from‘fab’ to ‘awesome’ and ‘wonderful’ to ‘amazing’ to describe the latest production.

For us the stars on Monday night were 12-year-old Sophia Pettit in the title role and Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Agatha Hannigan, the orphanage matron who hates children but loves alcoholic beverages.

For me the parts did belong to film star Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks and comedian Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan in the 1982 movie but from the moment an inebriated Craig made his towering entrance wearing high heels and silk Teddy underwear complete with stockings we didn’t stop laughing at the cross-dressing gin-swigging performance of the Australian born judge from Strictly Come Dancing.

The granddaughters agreed Craig made a very realistic woman and one whispered: “Is he wearing a bra?”

A special mention must also go to the stage stalwart Alex Bourne who shaved his head to play billionaire Oliver Warbucks ably supported by Holly Dale Spencer as secretary/love interest Grace Farrell and Jonny Fines with Djalenga Scott playing the ‘can’t keep my hands off you’ couple on the make, Daniel ‘Rooster’ Hannigan and Lily St Regis.

The Easy Street number with Craig, Jonny and Djalenga is mesmerisingly mean although it is the optomistic song Tomorrow which stays in your head.

Strangely the 1980s critics panned the music saying the show had no iconic numbers.

Well the aforementioned plus Hard Knock Life, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile and I Don’t Need Anything But You’ proved them wrong.

There are three teams of six orphans and on opening night it was the all-singing and all-dancing young actors from Team Waldorf who nailed their parts –pitch and step perfect apart from a small stumble over a big cardboard box.

The set which is framed using a blue map of New York cut into large jigsaw pieces opens in the draughty orphanage dormitory as six little girls wiggly in iron bedsteads to keep warm hugging rag dolls.

Loved the bit where a staggering Craig slurps continuously from a bottle and tells the orphans: “It’s my medicine.”

Show stealing smallest orphan Jessica Cartledge, aged eight, as Milly retorts: “You must be very sick then.”

 And when Annie runs away and finds a soup kitchen for the homeless we meet Sandy the dog without a ‘licence or leash’.

Sandy has several ‘run on’ tail wagging moments and is real life is a Labradoodle called Amber.

What is missing – thank goodness – from this show is the red Afro-style wig that Annie usually wears in the final festive scene with Christmas presents piled up to the ceiling.

This time her red plaits were loosely curled and the red sailor dress is more modern although in the face of austerity Annie still shows the same positive attitude of Anne of Green Gables written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1908.

To steal the score from fellow Strictly judge Len Goodman we'll give the current show 10.

Annie plays until Saturday, September 5.

 

Carol Deacon

We love you Miss Hannigan - really

 

PREVIEW

Annie the musical starring Craig Revel Horwood opens at the Bristol Hippodrome on Monday, August 31, and tickets are like golddust already.

It runs until Saturday, September 5, with two matinee performances.

This is a new production of the musical and has the BBC television Strictly Come Dancing judge cast as Miss Hannigan. 

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…

With its award-winning book and score, this stunning new production includes the unforgettable songs It’s The Hard Knock Life, ‘Easy Street’, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow.

Craig Revel Horwood is no stranger to the stage and his West End theatre credits include: Munkustrap in Cats at the New London Theatre, Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Harry in Crazy For You at the Prince Edward Theatre which took him to the US and Germany before re-creating the show for Susan Stroman in South Africa.

Other theatre credits in his native Australia include: West Side Story, the Australian and New Zealand tour of The Danny La Rue Show; La Cage Aux Folles; Me and My Girl and Norman in the hit comedy play Ladies Night.

Tickets £15-47.50 by clicking HERE.

Please note Craig Revel Horwood will not be performing on Tuesday or Wednesday, September 1-2.

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