Annie (Tour – Sunderland)

Some musicals come and go in the blink of an eye (“Desperately Seeking Susan”, anyone?) Some enjoy moderate success. Some enjoy monumental success and run for years-and-years-and-Les-Mis-years.

A special few, however, become so engrained in to popular culture that not only do they continue to tour over 30 years after their Broadway debut, but can become a hip-hop anthem along the way! In fact, make that just one … Annie.

The night I attended, Lydia Tunstall donned the ginger wig as the eponymous heroine to give a suitably feisty performance as the gutsy orphan desperate to find her parents.

Su Pollard chews up the scenery (and washes it down with a swig of hard liquor) as the child-hating, alcohol sodden Miss Hannigan. It’s a wonderfully dotty performance, showcasing Pollard’s well-known talents as a comic actress. Amongst all the slapstick, however, are also glimpses of a darker side. Not to mention a tremendous singing voice, and she belts out the show’s best song – “Little Girls” – with aplomb.

Once brother Rooster (James Gavin) and his blonde-bombshell girlfriend Lily (Sophie McEwan) appear, there is a comic chemistry between the dastardly trio that really bumps things along.

There is strong support from David McAlister’s Oliver Warbucks. He goes from hard-nosed businessman to would-be Daddy, and his quiet romance with secretary Grace (Simone Craddock) is nicely played.

The talented ensemble all give energetic and polished performances. But with a running time of approx two and a half hours (act one coming in at a hefty one hour and fifteen minutes) they have to work all the harder to keep the attention of the younger audience members. This is not helped by overlong scene changes that are poorly masked by weak front-of-curtain ‘fillers’.

All in all, you can’t go too far wrong with Annie. It’s got a much-loved score including “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life”, cute ragamuffin kids and an even cuter pooch – Danny the Dog as Sandy getting a heartfelt ‘ahhhhhhh’ every time he lumbered on.

Yes, it’s so sugary sweet it could make you feel as nauseous as Miss H after a night on the sauce. Yes, it’s cheesy.

But this production of the classic musical has a charm and a feel-good factor that warms the heart and leaves you smiling. And lest we forget, you’re never fully dressed without a smile …!