The magical world of Annie is brought to life by the West End Tour at the Marlowe Theatre, starring Kiana Dumbuya as Annie, Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan and Alex Bourne as Daddy Warbucks. The musical follows an orphan’s quest to find her real parents but instead, she finds herself living with a billionaire.
With voices soaring higher than the towering sets, and with choreography that makes you want to snap out of your seat, the audience is introduced into this bold world of adventure. However, the enthusiasm was short lived and as the show progressed, some of the magic seemed to fizzle out and we snapped out of the spell. From the program, the audience has been promised ‘a new interpretation of Annie for a new generation' and it delivered that through exciting choreography and new dance breaks. ‘Hooverville’ was one of the highlights of the show, performed by a shining ensemble, as the scathing satirical undertone of the song was captured perfectly by the whimsical choreography of Nick Winston. Although, despite contributing to the vibrancy of Act One, the added dance breaks felt merely ornamental in the second act and they feebly attempted to tie together the loose ends of an odd plot: a billionaire on the radio and a cabinet meeting with an orphan.
The orphans were the best part of the show, immediately transporting you into the world of 1930’s New York with an astounding rendition of the iconic ‘Hard Knock Life’ that burst with energy. Although, some other performances were somewhat lacking; Rooster (Richard Meek) is typically the villain you love to hate, but he was portrayed one-dimensionally as an aggressive brute without the charm needed to pull off ‘Easy Street’.
All the design elements were masterfully employed to convey a specific style, each leaving their own mark on this classic musical. The puzzle-piece set communicated the theme of broken childhood and the broken world of the Depression. This was complemented by high stacks of discarded objects that served as practical sets, imaginatively used and contributing to the seamless flow from scene to scene. Costume design often revolved around layering of patterns and bold colours that, themselves, added another layer of magic to the show. Unfortunately, Daddy Warbucks looked too much like a displaced Gru.
In his efforts to bring a new interpretation, the director, Nikolai Foster, failed to see the benefits of revitalising the script. It would have been refreshing to see the relationship between Annie and Mr Warbucks developed in a more nuanced, realistic way than the original script allowed. The references and jokes felt dated in a way that left both the oldest and youngest audience members asking themselves, “Who are these jokes for?”.
Although the production did justice to this classic musical, maybe it’s time to give it new life.
Images courtesy of MarloweTheatre.com