LAVISH PRODUCTION BUT CAST ON AUTO
Book by THOMAS MEEHAN
Music by CHARLES STROUSE
Lyrics by MARTIN CHARNIN
Original Production directed by Martin Charning
produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions Limited and David Atkins Enterprises in association with Playhouse Productions
at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 23 May 2014 to 8 Jun 2014
Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 26 May 2014
originally published in The Dominion Post
Annie is Broadway's answer to the West End's Oliver! It has girls in an orphanage instead of boys in a workhouse, a cruel, drink sodden overseer, a rags-to-riches story and a dog called Sandy (played by Ramble).
It's hard to imagine a contemporary musical, even one based on a cartoon strip, to have such indefatigable optimism as that expressed in Annie. Even Oliver Twist had set-backs and one wondered how he would survive.
Not for a moment do you doubt an eleven year-old orphan girl won't move into an elite world and have the President of the United States, a Supreme Court Judge, Eliot Ness, and a billionaire at her beck and call.
The current U.K. revival of this 1977 Tony Award winning musical is a full-on, lavishly designed production with scenery, costumes and effects that one doesn't expect to see in a touring show in these austere times.
The East Ballroom of the billionaire Warbucks' mansion, for example, has a magnificent staircase that Dolly Levi would be delighted to parade down as the Christmas snow falls outside the enormous windows.
The performers, however, are on autopilot. Every song is sung full bore and the voice amplification is such that it makes speech and song sound as if they are being transmitted through screech-making megaphones. Even the reflective Something was Missing, sung by Warbucks (a solid performance from David McAlister), sounded as if it were an anthem from Les Miserables.
While one doesn't expect subtlety in comic strips, one can expect comic performances to be funny because they have been carefully mined for small as well as large comic touches.
Su Pollard as the hard-bitten Miss Hannigan, and Mig Ayesa and Emily Trebicki as her partners-in-crime Rooster and Lily, sail through the show on one note and miss the humour in the roles. Only John D Collins, who underplays the butler Drake as well as performing the one piece of good comic business, succeeds.
The young orphans are expertly drilled and perform with self-confidence, while Amelia Walshe, one of three Annies, shines, avoiding sentimentality and performing with maturity and poise.
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See also reviews by:
Paul Simei-Barton (New Zealand Herald);
James Wenley (TheatreScenes: The Auckland Theatre Blog);