“Annie” review





New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


Stage Experience


Thursday 22/08/13



“Stage Experience” is held every August at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham. Basically a summer school for young performers, they have a few weeks to rehearse and then get to perform a full musical on stage at the Alex – one of the Midlands’ biggest theatres. A fantastic opportunity. What they manage to achieve in two weeks (or 12 days to be precise) is amazing. We’re not talking a school play here, this is the works – professionally directed and choreographed, full orchestra, sets, costumes, the lot. Professional companies would struggle to pull that off in that time. Director/choreographer Pollyann Tanner takes on (and achieves) this huge challenge.


For their tenth anniversary show, Stage Experience have chosen the award-winning Broadway musical “Annie”. As cheesy musicals go, Annie is right up there. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s a great bit of escapism and full of feel-good factor. It’s like a sugar-coated, all-American, female version of “Oliver” – a story about an abandoned orphan that triumphs. Although it’s set during the great depression, it’s not as gritty as the Dickensian Oliver.


Taking on the mantle of the cutesy heroine is Georgia Millie Price. With a mane of curly red hair she bounds through the two hour show with all the vim and verve that the role requires. A little star in the making. Much must be said for the other orphans though, of which there are many. They shine in “Hard Knock Life” and especially the wonderful “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”.


The ages of this 136 strong cast (yes, 136!) vary from 9-22 so the adults in the story are played by the older members. Katie Gladwin plays the gill-swigging evil Miss Hannigan with great gusto, whilst Rosie Coles beautifully plays Grace Farrell in a sophisticated performance that belies her young age. However, all the cast give their absolute all. Richard Batham (a fine voiced Daddy Warbucks) even shaved his head to play Annie’s famous saviour.


It’s always great to see the number “NYC” in the stage show (it was replaced in the 1981 movie by the inferior “Let’s Go To The Movies”) and it is performed here in all its full production number glory. A highlight.


Finally, I should mention a veteran star of the show – Sandy the dog. Played here by Danny who has a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the most performances done by a dog in a theatrical show. He was the same dog I saw in the same musical at the same theatre over ten years ago! He has come out of retirement to accompany Annie once more. A very cute moment came when Annie hit the high note in “Tomorrow” and he shook his head. To be fair, he has heard it a fair few times!


4 stars. Not just kids play.


Darren Haywood



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