St James Theatre 2, Wellington

23/05/2014 - 08/06/2014

Civic Theatre, cnr of Queen Street & Wellesley Street West, Auckland

13/06/2014 - 29/06/2014

Production Details

Everyone’s favourite little red-headed orphan is New Zealand-bound. The acclaimed UK production of ANNIE – one of the best-loved musicals of all time – will play in Wellington from 23 May 2014 at the St James Theatre, and in Auckland from 13 June at The Civic for a strictly limited season. 

“One of the most enchanting musicals I have ever seen” SUNDAY TIMES, UK

The show will feature a host of familiar faces from British TV and stage, and will propel local talent into the spotlight in the lead role of Annie as well as her fellow orphans. 

Leading the stellar cast is the UK’s hilarious star of stage and screen, Su Pollard, and David McAlister, a veteran of the West End stage and TV dramas. 

Perhaps best known for her brilliantly funny portrayal of Peggy in the hit BBC TV series Hi-de-Hi!, Su Pollard will play the dastardly, gin-soaked Miss Hannigan, headmistress of the hard-knock New York City Municipal Orphanage. The BAFTA Award-winning Hi-de-Hi! was a prime time favourite on UK television for eight years in the 1980s, turning its cast into household names. Hi-de-Hi! is currently screening on Sky TV’s Jones channel. 

As well as her many TV roles, Su has appeared in numerous musicals and plays in London’s West End (Godspell, Me and My Girl, Shout!) and around the UK (Grease, Little Shop of Horrors), and has performed her own cabaret show The Su Pollard Show on a UK tour, in New York City and on board the QEII cruise liner. Most recently Su has been performing the role of Miss Hannigan to great acclaim in the UK, as well as seasons in Hong Kong and Singapore, and in 2010 was nominated for Best Leading Lady in a musical for her portrayal.

Playing the kindly billionaire businessman Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks is David McAlister.  David has enjoyed success in nearly every area of the entertainment industry from opera at Covent Garden (Franco Zefferelli’s Pagliacci) to his own cabaret show at London’s Ritz Hotel; from TV comedy (Harry Enfield & Chums) to TV classics (Brideshead Revisited); from radio drama (The Archers, The Lord of the Rings) to TV drama (The Bill, Miss Marple, Doctor Who); from film (Who Dares Wins) to the hugely popular British TV soaps including Eastenders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks, for which he was nominated Best Villain.

His West End performances include the lead role in The Mousetrap, A Month in the Country with Ingrid Bergman, The Sound of Music and the lead role of Noel Coward opposite Joanna Lumley in Noel & Gertie at London’s famous King’s Head Theatre. He has a vast array of regional UK theatre credits, and since his first acclaimed performance in the role of Daddy Warbucks in 2007, David has now completed five UK tours and one Hong Kong/Singapore tour of ANNIE.

Making a welcome return to New Zealand is MiG Ayesa in the role of Rooster — Miss Hannigan’s scheming brother.  MiG was last seen on these shores in the lead role of Galileo Figaro in the hit musical We Will Rock You in 2007, following his success in the hit TV show, Rock Star: INXS.  MiG has performed in many West End and Broadway musicals including Rent, Rock of Ages and Thriller Live.

Playing the role of former US President Franklin D Roosevelt is Frazer Hines, best known as Joe Sugden in Emmerdale for 22 years, and with 117 episodes as the Doctor’s assistant in Dr Who to his credit.  Also joining the cast are two stars from the hit  BBC TV comedy series ‘Allo ‘Allo – Sue Hodge, who played waitress Mimi Labonq for five years, and John D Collins who played Flying Officer Fairfax for ten years.

“A musical that tugs at your heartstrings”The Times, UK

Producer James Cundall, Chief Executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions said, “To be bringing some of the UK’s leading actors to New Zealand is a dream come true. Su Pollard became a national treasure in the UK with her performance in Hi-de-Hi!, where she demonstrated that unbelievable comedic timing which she will bring to the role of Miss Hannigan. David McAlister is a consummate star, with the most incredible array of credits spanning more than three decades and a wide spectrum of entertainment. New Zealand is in for a real treat with this incredible array of talent starring in such a popular musical.”

The show comes direct from a highly successful UK tour and features a cast of 32, including Annie and nine fellow orphans. 

“We will be casting the roles of Annie and the orphan children locally, giving aspiring young actresses in New Zealand the opportunity of a lifetime to star on stage in an international production. And of course we will be scouting for local canine talent for the role of Sandy the dog, so keep an eye out for further details!” added Mr Cundall.

Zoe Fifield, 13, Auckland and Amelia Walshe, 11, and Ilena Shadbolt, 12, both of Wellington, were chosen to play Annie. The three will alternate the role for seasons in Wellington (from Friday 23 May) and Auckland (from Friday 13 June).

A further 48 girls have been chosen to play the roles of orphans. They will be divided into two 24-strong troupes – one for the Wellington season and the other for the Auckland season. These troupes represent Christchurch, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Tauranga, Auckland and Wellington.

From its Broadway beginnings to the classic film musical, the heart-warming rags-to-riches story of plucky young Annie’s journey from the hard-knock New York orphanage to the luxurious home of billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks, is a tale that has been told all over the world for decades.

Boasting one of Broadway’s most memorable, toe-tapping scores, including “It’s The Hard Knock Life”, “Easy Street” and the legendary “Tomorrow”, plus fantastically visual choreography, a side-splittingly funny script and, of course, the adorable dog Sandy, it really is no surprise that ANNIE remains one of the most loved and universally appealing musicals of all time.

More than 50 million people of all ages have been delighted by three Broadway runs of ANNIE, two Australian tours, two West End stints, five National U.S. companies, two hit movies (1982 and 1999) with a third due for release in December, and dozens of international productions, playing seasons all over the world. This UK production of ANNIE has been seen by over 3 million people during its tour to every major city in Great Britain, and last year played sell-out seasons in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“An irresistible show” The Daily Telegraph, UK

Inspired by the famous comic strip Little Orphan Annie which first ran in the New York News in 1924, Annie is set in Depression Era New York City at a time when the economy looked bleak, government seemed ineffective and the average citizen was desperate and frustrated.  With its hopeful message and unwavering belief in a better tomorrow, ANNIE made its Broadway debut in April 1977 and played 2377 performances before closing in 1983. The show won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book (Thomas Meehan), Best Original Score (music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin), and Best Choreography.

Now, 37 years after its Broadway debut, the timeless tale of Little Orphan Annie will be coming to New Zealand, giving a whole new generation the chance to experience a classic musical about never giving up hope. ANNIE is a delightful theatrical experience for any age.

ANNIE is produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions Limited and David Atkins Enterprises in association with Playhouse Productions. 


VENUE:  St James Theatre 
SEASON:  From Tuesday 23 May – Sunday 8 June
BOOKINGS:  0800 TICKETEK (0800 842 538) or 
Groups 10+ SAVE!:  Call Group Bookings on 04 384 3842

VENUE:  The Civic 
SEASON:  From Friday 13 June – Sunday 29 June  
BOOKINGS:  09 970 9700 or 
Groups 10+ SAVE!:  Call Group Bookings on 09 970 9745 
Packages:  visit

We got Annie!

Review by James Wenley 17th Jun 2014

Did the Global Financial Crisis lead to an increase in Annie revivals? Set in 1933, four years after the stock market crash, the tale of the 11-year-old red-headed orphan has as its backdrop the haves and have-nots of the Great Depression era. Six years after the 2008 crisis, the Broadway Musical is now playing at Auckland’s Civic Theatre. This comes by way of a production “direct from the UK”, but actually toured the UK in 2011 and visited Hong Kong and Singapore in 2012. In Australia Anthony Warlow headlined as Daddy Warbucks in 2012, a role which finally got him to Broadway, in a New York production that was the toast of the 2012-2013 season. You may have heard too of the new Annie movie musical produced by Jay Z and Will Smith, with Jamie Foxx as “Will Stacks”, whose somewhat promising trailer is ruined every time Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan shows up.

It is easy to dismiss Annie, a ‘comic book’ Musical which debuted on Broadway in 1977: too saccharine, too sentimental, too cute. Annie, the audacious orphan with optimistic cheek, escapes her orphanage fate by charming gruff billionaire Oliver Warbucks, meets President Roosevelt, and inspires his signature domestic New Deal policy by bursting into song: “Betcha bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun”. [More]


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Kiwi kids and dog add to Annie magic

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 16th Jun 2014

In an age of diminished expectations Annie offers an unabashed celebration of the irrepressible optimism that fuels the American Dream. 

However unattainable that dream has become, its guiding principle, that getting rich is a good idea, makes perfect sense when voiced by an 11-year-old orphan determined to escape from a life of grinding poverty. 

What sets Annie apart is the songs: A succession of great jazz-infused tunes carry us through the contrasting extremes of Depression-era America – from the brass-knuckle hustle of NYC to the cheesy vaudeville of radio-show jingles and the intoxicating extravagance of a billionaire’s mansion. [More


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A timely escape from today’s realities

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 15th Jun 2014

Optimism bounds onto the Civic’s stage in the form of Annie: the character, the young actress and this production, are equal in joyfulness. While this is a safe rendition of the tale, told very much with the kids in mind, it is good old-fashioned, warm and wholesome fun.

Lunchbox Productions & co. turn back the clock to present Annie the way Broadway musicals used to be: traditional (mostly) one dimensional proscenium arch sets slide and fly in and out with seamless regularity (set designer Alan Miller-Bunford) and the choreography is buttoned-up and stylized (Helen Rymer). Annie is delightfully prim and proper in all the right places, with a big dollop of “aw gee, leaping lizards!” positive messaging, slap bang in the middle.  

Director Alan Cohen keeps the pace bubbling along with set transitions peppered with musical bites and livened up with neat little cross overs from policemen on the beat, Sandy the dog and the like. Great care has been taken to present well and the director’s eye for detail is apparent in every second of Annie.

Technically, the production is neat and tidy: Musical Director David Roper’s orchestra /band sounds much bigger than the 8 players listed in the programme, and is full of bright colours, simple melodies and clarity – all executed with ease, in particular the brass /woodwind and percussionist. The audience applauds heartily.

With a nod to the glory of American Broadway musicals of the 1930s, lighting designer Colin Wood embraces a framework of festoons for the bright lights of the city: the full proscenium arch in the pre-set, right through to the trams of NYC.  Wood has the mood of the orphanage suitably grim with dappled light and keeps things clean and bright for Warbuck’s world, yet still finds a few moments of indulgence, throwing in a bit of devil’s red in ‘Easy Street’ for example.

In the same way, Annie’s famous red dress pops off the colour chart, next to costume designer Carol Webster’s mostly measured and appropriately drab tones of grey and brown, in keeping with the pre-war depression era. 

While the choreography is flawlessly executed and mannered, there is one skirt-flicking moment by the ensemble of house maids at Warbuck’s Mansion, that totally distracts me during ‘I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here’. Very odd! 

The cast is extraordinary:  the youngest is just 7 years old and the most mature, 87. Yet their focus and vocal textures are uniformly in keeping with the director’s vision during all company numbers, ensemble moments and the vast majority of individual performances.

The gaggle of girls from the orphanage is a clear audience favourite, with enthusiastic screams and cheers from the crowd after their numbers, (‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ sets the tone). There is just as much noise for plucky Zoe Fifield, when she sings the iconic songs (‘Tomorrow’; ‘Maybe’) in the title role. As with all the girls, Zoe’s vocal tone has the crucial brazen nasal twang to pull off the much-loved role of Annie. She’s adorable – they all are. 

In terms of the adult cast, Su Pollard’s Miss Hannigan is as mad as a cut snake, and the audience laps it up – her over the top ad-libs get closer and closer to pure unbridled slap-stick: she even breaks out into some sort of mad drunken haka during her curtain call.  

While in general the adult performances are safely pitched for young kids, with the gritty realism of the depression era left at the stage door, the stand out for me is Mig Ayesa in the role of dodgy con man Rooster Hannigan. Especially during ‘Easy Street’, Ayesa grabs every moment on stage and owns it with slippery ease.  

I watched the news before we skipped off to the theatre. Parts of the world are a mess, with no clear answers to hand. Of course Annie’s simple world view is incapable of registering the calamity of the Middle East, or the plight of women in India…. yet it is a welcome relief, and a timely escape, to leave today’s realities behind, and take my daughter to the undeniably charming, delightful fun of Annie.  

10-year-old Ella clutches her programme and is transfixed from start to finish. As we walk out, she tells me that the whole show is “Totally relatable” and that her favourite was “Annie. She’s awesome.” After a less than satisfying night out last time I sat in the Civic for some song and dance, my faith in the magic of Musical Theatre, for kids at least, is now restored.


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Lavish production but cast on auto

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 26th May 2014

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. 


Roger Steele May 26th, 2014

Thank goodness for Laurie's frank review of Annie. I took two of my grandchildren ‚ at over $100 a seat with no children's price — ridiculous — and they spent the first half wincing with their fingers in their ears, the sound was so loud. I found the words hard to discern amid the cacophony. I complained to one usher, who said he could do nothing. Another, at half-time, said she would pass my comment on, and somehow the second half was less aurally painful than the first. A great pity, because the show was well presented, fast-paced and otherwise fun — and as Laurie says, Annie herself (and the other children) were excellent.

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Oozes enjoyment, fun and general positivity

Review by Lucy O'Connor 25th May 2014

Even before Annie starts, I feel nostalgic thanks to some members of the crowd who too are early. Little girls in dress ups and fairy costumes run about and smile infectiously, creating an air of innocence and fun. They start to rub off on even the un-cluckiest of people and I wish I could join them in frolicking around the St James Theatre. If only societal norms allowed!

Those of us seated early are treated to the sound of the brass band’s warm up which is reassuring because if all else fails, the bobbing head of the conductor is enthusiasm enough.

Once the screen lifts I am blown away by the initial spectacle that is the set. In a grim, dirty hall are beds with rustic charm nursing raggedy orphan girls who bicker and tease each other while trying to get to sleep. The smallest orphan needs a hero and who better to fit that bill than determined red headed Annie. She enters with absolute boldness and soothes each girl while dreaming about her own imagined other life.  

Annie (11 year old Ameila Walshe tonight) is something else. Her tiny physical self does nothing to hinder a humungous presence. She plays cheeky, daring, heroine Annie and nails it with honest resilience. These kids have some serious stamina. The orphan girls in their gaggle give off vibes of childhood as they annoy, tease and mimic for reaction.  

I don’t need to elaborate about Ms Hannigan (Su Pollard); she is an absolute hoot! From the moment she enters to steer Annie back into the orphanage, the crowd are alert and totally immersed.  In all her desperate, haggard mania, it’s tough to dislike her character despite her awful purpose. She has the crowd belly laughing no matter how small her intonation. 

Annie opportunistically takes a chance on escaping with the laundry and as she wanders through New York City streets, I feel like I’m there, wandering unnoticed with her. The chaos, the contrast between classes, and the hustle and bustle are executed so well that I forget I’m in a show. I soon learn there are no small characters in this performance; people who play a homeless New Yorker in one scene hold positions of entitlement, class and worth in the next. They are all excellent and essential. 

We are wowed by the extravagance of Oliver Warbucks’ mansion. The man himself, played by David McAlister, has suitable importance but at the end of the day is just a slightly awkward but ever-doting Dad who loves and wants the best for Annie. His secretary, Grace Farrell (Rachel Stanley) is extremely consistent in her role. Every time she speaks, we are filled with positive loveliness and her air of undeniable humble grace. I see what they did there. Her costumes are amazing. From a tartan woolen cape to a small fishtail pleat in her skirt, nothing has been overlooked.

In fact, all costumes are perfectly fit for era. I would be interested to know whether these are replicas or originals as it is extremely difficult to note any discrepancies in all their vintage glory.

Lily St Regis and Rooster, the baddest baddies in town, enter in all their sleazy, greasy slipperiness. Just as I remember! These characters, played by Emily Trebicki and MiG Ayesa, are performed with notable energy showing the remorseless arrogance in their plot to pose as Annie’s parents and get away with the money. 

There are so many elements to this production. The set is both hugely grand and intricately detailed. The long table in the Whitehouse is massive in size but features bright gold trim. The hot dog stand has actual hotdogs up for grabs. And I hear the art works have all been hand painted. The props are extremely impressive and prepared with no less importance than the main sets. The scene transitions are seamless.

The vocals and the dance ensembles are just fantastic. It is because these elements are so flawless that I am able to focus on the finer details. The musical arrangements are reminiscent of, and do not stray a beat from, the originals.

The only glitches in tonight’s show are an excited four-legged cast member who walks happily away from Annie at a moment that could see him taken back to the pound, and a few microphone issues, neither of which dampen or extract from the performance. Considering how many things needed to gel – the costume changes, the sound, the live music, and what was that thing someone once said about working with kids and animals? – it’s amazing everything else comes together as it should.

Over two hours of showcase flies by and as the cast take their last bow and Annie receives a bouquet of roses, I can’t help but wish it were starting all over again.   

It is a performance that oozes enjoyment, fun and general positivity. This is a cast who clearly love the heck outta their work. It’s the best method of escapism since the invention of magazines and island holidays. I feel ten years old again and possess the same amount of optimism. 


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