Annie at the Victoria Palace
A hard-hearted Wall Street billionaire. An 11-year-old mop-haired orphan out to find her parents. A fiendish, whiskey-swigging spinster who runs an orphanage. A pair of duplicitous ruffians called Rooster and Lily. A nationwide manhunt leading to a $50,000 reward. And a stray mutt named Sandy.
If you think they all sound like elements straight out of a cartoon strip, you d be right. Lyricist Martin Charnin, and composer Charles Strouse based their musical Annie, on the adventures of “Little Orphan Annie”, which ran in the New York News during the depression era.
Now the heart-warming show has been revived under Charnin's direction, in celebration of its 21st anniversary. And the signs are that the little lady hasn't aged a bit.
Strouse and Charnin's tunes are still eminently hummable, with the most memorable of the strong score being ‘Tomorrow . This paen to optimism is first sung by Annie in the orphanage; and appropriated later in the plot by the Roosevelt administration to underline their New Deal. Elsewhere there is the pastiche of a ‘30s advertising jingle, ‘You re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile , a hymn to the Big Apple, entitled ‘NYC , and the soaring ‘Maybe .
There is also a moment when some of the victims of the Great Crash collectively lament their losses in a song called ‘We d Like To Thank You . With another worldwide recession a distinct possibility, this number has a certain poignancy about it, not to mention topicality.
The performances are, on the whole, adequate, rather than exceptional. Lesley Joseph plays the evil Miss Hannigan with a Cruella De Vil type intensity; Andrew Kennedy is a rakish Rooster; Kevin Colson interprets the mega-rich Warbucks as a follically challenged Donald Sinden; and 13-year-old Sophie McShera, as the eponymous orphan (on the night), manages to belt out the songs with an intensity that belies her tender years. Kenneth Foys sets, meanwhile, (which must have required a Warbucks-sized budget to create) lavishly and atmospherically recreate both New York's low and high life.
But in the end, it's the songs that win out in this production by Bromley's Churchill Theatre. I wandered out into Victoria after the show unable to get that catchy tune ‘Tomorrow out of my head, and vowing to bring my two young daughters to the first available matinee.