“We love you Miss Hannigan” – Annie at The Regent Theatre

Annie was one of my most-watched VHS tapes as a kid. I would watch it over and over again singing “it’s a hard knock life” every time my parents would ask me to sweep the kitchen floor. It was, and is, a classic loved by everyone.

On Tuesday, November 18, two rows of old fashioned beds lined the stage of The Regent Theatre as Molly suffers a nightmare. She is teased by the other orphans until fierce, fiery, red-headed Annie bursts onto the stage to her rescue.

Set in 1930s New York during the Great Depression, the classic hit movie Annie is adapted to stage.

The story tells of an orphan girl dumped on the steps of Miss Hannigan’s orphanage with nothing but half a locket and a note. Annie always believes her parents will return, but one day – fed up of the oppression of the orphanage – she escapes to embark on a journey of self-discovery in an attempt to find her mum and dad.

The stage design is that of a huge jigsaw puzzle, made up of a map of New York. In an interview, director Nikolai Foster said: “It’s a metaphor for Annie’s life as she journeys through New York and tries to put together the pieces of her life.”

After being caught out, Annie returns to the orphanage, bumping into the beautiful Grace Farrall – played by Carolyn Maitland. Annie is selected to spend Christmas at the home of NYC billionaire Oliver Warbuck’s (Alex Bourne).

Mia Lakha made her professional theatre debut as Annie, and did a brilliant job. Annie hasn’t quite got as big of an attitude or chip on her shoulder as the original film, but is still a fiery character who sticks up for her friends and knows her own mind. She sure gives an alcoholic Miss Hannigan – played by Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph – the rough time she deserves.

Joseph is hilarious – from the way she flirts with the boys, to her fridge full of gin. WE LOVE YOU MISS HANNIGAN.

I had completely forgotten the part of the storyline that featured her brother Rooster and his partner Lily. The devilish trio made for brilliant viewing, and their Easy Street dance numbers were absolutely fantastic. Lily – played by Jenny Gayner – played a wonderful part, and reminded me a little of Gina from Peaky Blinders. Her technical abilities when dancing were phenomenal.

In fact, the whole show was choreographed to perfection. There was a range of dance styles expertly executed by every single member of the cast – namely Carolyn, playing Grace, whose vocals are equally as stunning.

For me, the magic happened at Oliver Warbucks’ pad, though. The script featured those iconic lines that take you right back to watching the film for the first time. “First I’ll scrub the floors, then I’ll start on the windows…”

What little orphan Annie didn’t realise was quite how much she meant to Mr Warbucks. Alex and Mia’s on-stage relationship is so endearing. It really mirrored an adoring father/daughter relationship. It reminded me of dancing in the kitchen on my dad’s feet as a little girl.

Warbucks’ staff are absolutely magical to watch. I can’t sing Carolyn’s praises highly enough, but Drake, Mrs Greer, Cecile and co were fabulous too. When performing I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here, I was completely captivated by the performers. The finest details are thought of, including steam whizzing across the stage behind a hot plate of food.

Now, let’s talk about that ‘dumb dog’, Sandy! First of all, I was a touch disappointed that Dumb Dog didn’t feature in the musical, and Sandy wasn’t in the show a great deal. However, I appreciate how difficult it would have been to follow the storyline to a tee. However, Amber the five-year-old Labradoodle was amazing and certainly made the audience coo. When Annie finds Sandy in a New York alleyway, she crouches down to give her a fuss, and her little tail could not stop wagging.

I think I can confidently say this has been my favourite performance at The Regent Theatre this year, and it will be a difficult one to top.

You can catch it at The Regent Theatre until Saturday, November 23. You can buy tickets for the show here.

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Where I am

Staffordshire, UK