First performed on Broadway in 1977, Annie has since been adapted into numerous movies and is currently nearing the end of its UK tour. Set in New York City in 1933, Annie tells the story of an optimistic orphan girl always believing that the sun will ‘come out tomorrow’. Whilst the children in Miss Hannigan’s orphanage are forced to work endlessly, Annie is lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend two weeks with the billionaire Mr Warbucks over Christmas. However she has always been determined to find her parents, who left her as a baby at the orphanage, and with the help of Mr Warbucks Annie can now hope for success. Yet Miss Hannigan hatches a plan in order to claim the $50,000 offered by Warbucks to the couple who can prove they are Annie’s parents.
Whilst many people are familiar with the movie adaptations of Annie, it continues to be a musical enjoyed by all ages judging from the range of ages of the audience at the Edinburgh Playhouse. The first thing that’s noticeable on entering the theatre is the set with 6 beds on the stage which made up Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. All seven orphans begin on stage ‘sleeping’ whilst the audience files in, and a 1930s style radio plays on repeat, immediately making the audience aware of the decade.
The set consisted of a map of NYC made up of various jigsaw pieces. The director, Nikolai Foster, said that the set was one of the ways in which he tried to make this version of Annie different. The set symbolises Annie’s journey through New York and her attempt to ‘put together the pieces of her life’. This abstract set was an adaptable basis for the various locations throughout the show, from the glamour of Warbucks’ mansion to a Hooverville in Central Park. The set designer, Colin Richmond, said the abstract set also enabled focus to be drawn to the detail of the other set pieces which represented alternate settings, making the contrast between the poor and the rich even greater.
The jigsaw puzzle also provided a stimulus for the lighting, designed by Ben Cracknell. One of the most noticeable things about the lighting was how some of the jigsaw pieces around the top of the set lit up during various parts of the show. Similarly, since the musical takes place around Christmas, snow was projected onto the areas surrounding the stage and partly into the audience which added to the cheerful atmosphere of the finale.
The most remarkable part of the show were the young actors who played the six children in the orphanage and the lead role of Annie. There are three groups of young actors who rotate each performance and it is needless to say that their talent was incredible. ‘Hard Knock Life’ is one of the most famous songs from Annie and was also one of the best performances in this production. All seven orphans sang beautifully and their choreography was flawlessly in-sync.
The title role on the 16th May was played by Madeleine Haynes whose powerful voice and convincing optimistic outlook was perfect for red-headed orphan Annie. Other commendable performances were given by Johnny Jones (Rooster), Djalenga Scott (Lily) and Elaine C. Smith (Miss Hannigan) whose performance of ‘Easy Street’ and Smith’s rendition of ‘Little Girls’ were well-sung and helped the audience believe they were characters suffering during the Great Depression. Similarly, ‘Hooverville’ performed by the ensemble also set the context of the Depression which made it slightly more understandable, yet not believable, that FDR made an appearance. However, crediting the New Deal to the inspiration of Annie was a little far-fetched.
Annie makes for a family-friendly show which lives up to expectations and in some ways surpasses the well-known movie adaptations.