The last time that Chris Moreno’s touring production of Annie – the tale of the ginger moppet in search of her parents – arrived at the Lowry two years ago; it was, let’s face it, a bit shoddy. The break has done the show some good, as it is much slicker, although it still suffers from being way too long, particularly the first half.
The tale of poor little Annie and her “hard-knock life” rises or falls on the back of whoever plays the delightfully dotty child-hating Miss Hannigan. Thankfully, Su Pollard is on board this time and she knows this role so well, that she hams it up for all its worth, delivering vocally and showing that she truly is a fine comedic actress. Her rousing rendition of “Little Girls” is worth the admission price alone.
There is always a tendency to over-sing the role of Annie and on the night I attended Ellen Gallagher (sharing the role with Chloe Greig) does just that, but she is a feisty orphan, as the author intended and I am sure she will settle into the role and become more relaxed as the tour goes on. She and many of the cast are not helped by having to don atrocious, cheap-looking wigs.
David McAlister’s Daddy Warbucks and Simone Craddock’s loyal assistant Grace Farrell provide the show with a real touch of class, as they share genuine chemistry and vocally are on-the-money.
James Gavin and Sophie McEwan (Rooster Hannigan and Lily St Regis) bring the same tone of comic relief as Pollard and as a result, they are both delightful. The excellent ensemble also give finely honed performances.
I took along two younger critics, Mia, aged 4 and Ella, aged 6 and they both liked the slapstick elements but felt it was a bit too long. But Danny The Dog as Sandy certainly gave them the "Ahhhhh" Factor.
Alan Miller Bunford’s set design transports the audience from Broadway to bourgeois, but not as quickly as you would like. There are too many overlong scenes, purely there as a cover for set changes and after a while, they do grate. Director Roger Hannah clearly loves the original, but he needs to let go and remove some overlong sections.
The first half is almost one hour 20 minutes, and this does lead to fidgeting among the fan base of little girls. Some pruning would benefit this likable and loyal production.
If you want to wean your kids off High School Musical, and take them to an old-school, sugary musical, to chase away the Summer rain, then this could do the trick.