REVIEW: Annie, University Drama Studio

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They say never work with animals or children but Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company do both brilliantly. The adults aren’t bad either!

The children playing the orphans are sensational especially when singing classic numbers Hard Knock Life and Fully Dressed accompanied by a live six-piece orchestra. Alice Mackenzie is well cast as Annie a lucky 11-year-old who gets to spend Christmas with the ever-reliable Mark Holmes who plays billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Oh boy! Annie’s border collie Sandy behaves himself too. Annie sings Tomorrow to the president and Warbucks wonders whether to call Gandhi or Harpo Marx back first. Emma Townend is on form as his sweet natured secretary Grace Farrell.

The roguish triumvirate of Miss Hannigan, Rooster and Lily played by Danni Birks, Mark Harris and Rachel Hemstalk are also fabulous. They are at their ruthless best when performing musical number Easy Street. Miss Hannigan’s dislike for Annie is clear with the clever line, “Next thing you know they’ll be making a musical about her.”

The scenery is simple but effective and there are some inspired props such as human taxis and movable cinema seats during number N.Y.C. There’s some great costumes on display too. The N.Y.C dancers have snazzy yellow outfits and the Warbuck servants are all kitted out with authentic garb.

The Great Depression was a terrible time for America. Annie’s relentless and contagious optimism is the perfect antidote. She even inspired President Roosevelt’s New Deal economic programmes allegedly! Director Ian Walker’s rendition of the musical is a triumph thanks to the efforts of the whole company.