Bet your bottom dollar you’ll love Annie at The Regent Theatre

The 1982 Annie movie, based on the original 1977 Broadway musical, was one of the films I played over and over and over as a little girl, and so I never miss an opportunity to see the smash-hit stage production each time it stops off at The Regent Theatre.

Last in Stoke-on-Trent in 2019, the 2023 revival has come straight from London’s West End, starring Coronation Street’s Jodie Prenger as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan.

For those who, unlike me, don’t know the storyline like the back of their hand, Annie is set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression. Orphan Annie is dumped on the steps of Miss Hannigan’s orphanage with nothing but half a locket and a note. She always believes her parents will return, but one day – fed up with the oppression, cold mush and child labour – she escapes to embark on a journey of self-discovery in an attempt to find her mum and dad.

While unsuccessful on her runaway attempt, Miss Farrell – PA to billionaire Oliver Warbucks – takes a shine to the 11-year-old and asks to take her back to his home for two weeks over Christmas. Meanwhile, spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search for her true family.

Paul Coltas

Opening in the orphanage to rows of old fashioned beds, Molly suffers a nightmare and is teased by the other girls until fierce, fiery, red-headed Annie bursts onto the stage to her rescue. Zoe Akinyosade stepped into the shoes of Annie wonderfully, the nine-year-old actress really captured her spunky personality with grit and determination, while also showcasing her vulnerabilities, innocence and sensitive side. Her voice was angelic as she sang unforgettable songs from the score, including Maybe, Tomorrow and It’s The Hard Knock Life with the other orphans.

The children in this production are between the ages of seven and 13, and do a wonderful job of terrorising Miss Hannigan and covering for Annie’s escape, as well as providing a fun and energetic reprise of You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.

Jodie Prenger swapped the cobbles of Corrie for an NYC orphanage of Little Girls, portraying the gin-swigging spinster desperate for money and a man brilliantly. Her mannerisms and facial expressions were hilarious as she put her own stamp on the role. Vocally, Little Girls gave Prenger a moment to shine, but it was Easy Street alongside con-artist brother Rooster (Paul French) – portrayed with the perfect amount of sleaze – and his partner Lily that made for a devilish performance. 

Paul Coltas

Alex Bourne, who was adored by Stoke-on-Trent audiences during the show’s previous run, reprised his role as NYC billionaire Oliver Warbucks for the current tour. Alex and Zoe’s on-stage relationship is so endearing to watch, and moments where Mr Warbucks wore his heart on his sleeve were particularly tender – such as when he asks to adopt Annie. It was lovely to watch the business tycoon dote on the daughterly figure in “N.Y.C.”, which provided some of the most captivating choreography from the ensemble, seen also in I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here where everything is expertly executed with precision and heart.

Amelia Adams’ Grace Farrell’s ethereal voice was exceptional in You Won’t Be an Orphan for Long and Annie. A ‘childhood dream’ role for the actress, she showed Annie kindness and compassion for the first time in her life, and the audience absolutely loved her motherly character.

But there was one cast member that stole the spotlight every single time they appeared on stage, and that was, of course, Sandy – the dog! Played by social media stars Darcy, Boris and Lily, the three gorgeous pooches have been sharing the role of the shaggy hound. Zoe did a stellar job of navigating the retriever on stage, and there was a cheer all round when she called ‘Sandy!’ and the pooch dutifully trotted over to her. 

Paul Coltas

The stage design is simple, made up of a huge jigsaw puzzle 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.”

And you’ll be pleased to know that the film didn’t stray too far from the original script, so you’ll recognise some of the iconic one liners like ‘Leaping Lizards!’ and ‘make it shine like the top of the Chrysler building!’.

Running at The Regent Theatre until Saturday, May 13, Annie is an unforgettable and uplifting feel good musical with a talented cast and a much-loved score – you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll love it.

You can buy tickets to go and see Annie this week at The Regent Theatre here.


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