Beware Annie! You will exit with an earworm. Although not the slickest dance musical on the block at the moment, Nikolai Foster’s 70s revival is still gutsy and joyous enough to have you mentally singing along to Hard Knock Life for days.
Dumped in an orphanage at birth, and cruelly mistreated by its owner, Miss Hannigan (Miranda Hart, below), Annie is rescued by lonely billionaire Daddy Warbucks (Alex Bourne). Passing muster as a singer, Hart isn’t much cop as a dancer, and she’s not malicious enough for a truly delicious baddie. But, looking as if she’s been pulled through a charity shop backwards, she puts her wonderful swoop of height to good effect, tripping over orphans and lunging after startled men in her sexually frustrated kissy wake. Holly Dale Spencer as Grace entrances all with smiling ease, and Jonny Fines as Rooster has just the right amount of venom.
Who cares about the grownups, though; it’s the kids who run this show. Although American accents wobbled a bit, on opening night the orphans’ team, with Ruby Stokes as Annie, gave the audience a real punch in the solar plexus, their performances easily matching those of the adults. Charlotte Ross-Gower as Pepper was a gleeful terror and tiny Nicole Subebe as Molly got the night’s biggest laugh.
Dated Annie certainly is (a Harpo Marx joke received a mute response). And the moth-eaten and frequently ludicrous plot displays its comic-strip limitations. But this is lively escapism, so ditch the social realist grousing and go enjoy.