Who said never work with children and animals? Thankfully not the directors of this fantastic musical. From the start of the opening orphanage scene when six small, scruffy ragamuffin orphans sing and dance so perfectly, owning the stage, each with their unique personalites, we knew we were in for a treat of a show with these child-stars.
And animals? Five-year-old Labradoodle Amber is a loveable scruff whose portrayal of beautifully behaved stray dog Sandy melts all our hearts and sets us smiling every time he trots across stage on his travels between acts.
Set in 1930s New York during the Depression, this musical sees poor orphan Annie break-free from the hands of harridan Miss Hannigan and her orphanage to search for her real parents.
Cast aside any preconceptions you may have about a precocious Annie belting out bruising notes from the assault of which you have to cover your ears. Mia Lakha, who played Annie in last night’s production, was the most likeable, amiable and upbeat portrayal. Her smile was infectious, her voice amazing, hitting all the notes with ease.
Drawing in the crowds, Craig Revell Horwood (he of Strictly fame) played a swaggering, gin-swilling Miss Hannigan with more than a touch of the pantomime dame. His singing voice was powerful and of course his dance-moves were a sashaying success.
Alex Bourne was a perfect mix of power and kindness as Daddy Warbucks and Carolyn Maitland was an absolute star as Grace Farrell, his personable personal assistant. Her poise, delivery and voice were faultless and engaging. (Just a thought, mr or mrs Casting Director, but we reckon she’d play the perfect Mary Poppins as her next role).
On the opposite end of the scale Richard Meek and Jenny Gayner are excellent as the reprobate couple intent on getting their hands on the reward for recovering Annie. Their rendition of ‘Easy Street’ with Craig Revel Horwood is one to watch for.
As well as toe-stomping hits from the orphanage gang – such as It’s The Hard-Knock Life – lighting up the stage, prepared to be wowed by plenty of excellent choreography and performances by the talented ensemble, including Susannah Van den Berg, George Rae and Gary Davis as President Franklin Roosevelt.
Hits like N.Y.C, You’re Never fully Dressed Without a Smile, I Don’t Need Anything But You – and, of course, Tomorrow, will leave you happily humming on the way home.
Just don’t leave it until ‘Tomorrow’ to book your tickets. You won’t want to miss this feel-good, starry, colourful show.
It’s on at the Wales Millennium Centre until 31 August
For more information, visit www.wmc.org.uk
Pics by Paul Coltas