NOTE: The following review dates from October 2002 and an earlier tour for this production. For more up-to-date cast information and User Reviews, see current performance listings. Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the first UK production opened of this musical based on little orphan Annie.

The show has been a firm favourite over the years, not least because a chorus full of kids is always going to put the bums of family and friends firmly on seats, but mostly because of its effervescent feelgood factor.

Who, after all, could fail to be warmed by a young child, deserted by her parents, longing for a real home, taken in by a billionnaire who provides love and affection, while the greedy and unpleasant characters get their come-uppance?

At least, that was my feeling before seeing this particular tour of Annie, directed by Chris Colby, from the stable of producer Chris "Buddy" Moreno.

Former Hi-De-Hi star Su Pollard headlines as drunken orphanage matron Miss Hannigan, but her performance at times hams things up horribly. And while I would never condone diets for young children, it doesn't help when some of the so-called half-starved orphans look like a cut down in cholesterol would do them the world of good.

As for Annie herself, Jemma Carlisle is a strapping young lady, only perhaps eight inches shorter than Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks. The youngster has a powerful if somewhat nasal singing voice but was let down by a sound system which had me wincing every time she belted out a high note.

Mark Wynter's Daddy Warbucks was solid and reliable, striking the right note between gruff and avuncular, while Louise English was a pleasant enough Grace Farrell, a role which never really offers much for an actress to get her teeth into until well into act two.

Of course, the songs are usually a winner if you're into that style of sometimes sickly, sometimes saccharine number - NYC, You're Never Fully Dressed, Maybe, Tomorrow, I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here, all sang reasonably well but suffering in sheer power under Mark Crossland's seven-piece band.

Perhaps it just comes down to this: Annie is one of those shows which needs money, great sets, large chorus, decent-sized band and outstanding kids. And sadly this Annie finds herself orphaned in every sense.

- Elizabeth Ferrie (reviewed at Lincoln's Theatre Royal)