Hoards of excited, giggling children descended on the Piccadilly Theatre for one of the world’s favourite musicals, Annie, starring TV’s Miranda Hart.
And boy, they were not disappointed.
With some of the most energetic young performers I have ever come across taking to the stage, glittering, gargantuan sets and a song list teeming with recognisable tunes, it was a surprise every little boy and girl wasn’t joining in by dancing in the aisles.
Directed in this iteration by Nikolai Foster, the story follows a young orphan in 1930s New York.
Annie is forever hopeful that she will be collected by her parents and taken away from the dingy, grimy orphanage.
Her unhappy home is managed by the heavy-drinking Miss Hannigan, played by Miranda Hart with a delicious sense of ruthlessness.
Annie is whisked away for the Christmas trip of a lifetime to billionaire Oliver Warbucks’ house, who becomes enraptured by her wit and optimism. So with the help of his aide, Grace Farrell, begin a citywide search for Annie’s parents.
As Annie (played wonderfully by Hadley Wood’s own Madeleine Hayes) sings Maybe, calling on her parents to come and find her, we are taken along a journey of Annie’s realisation of where she belongs, with her hopeful nature carrying her through as she seeks to find her place in the world.
While Hart, Alex Bourne’s Oliver Warbucks and Holly Dale Spencer as Grace Farrell brought warmth and professionalism to their roles, the real stars of the show were the young actresses playing the orphans.
There are three young casts waiting in the wings in this production, with the title character also alternating on different nights.
The girls I saw each brought vivacity and exuberance to the stage and had more energy than the rest of the adult cast combined as they danced, cleaned, sang and screamed their hearts out, all to the dismay of Miss Hannigan.
They each show real comic chops alongside a veritable comic veteran in Hart, as well as her similarly ruthless brother Rooster and his partner Lily, played with gusto by Jonny Fines and Djalenga Scott .
As the audience joined the cast in a rendition of Tomorrow to end the play, the family-friendly nature of the musical rang true as children jumped on their chairs and their parents lifted them up so they could see Annie above the standing ovation.
If you have little ones who are wriggling with boredom over the summer holidays, might I suggest a trip to the theatre for an experience that left everyone in excellent form as they teared up in the sentimental moments, cheered the goodies and booed the baddies.
Annie, Piccadilly Theatre, 16 Denman Street, London W1D 7DY. Booking until January 2018
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