In case you missed the memo, the hit musical Annie has made a triumphant return to London, with comic Miranda Hart making her West End debut as the ghastly Miss. Hannigan.
This stage adaptation of Annie, playing at the Piccadilly Theatre, is the first to grace the capital since 1998, and in light of recent atrocities across the United Kingdom it could not have come at a more apt time.
Putting a show like Annie onto the stage is no mean feat, particularly as the entire production is so heavily reliant on talented child actresses, however, we are pleased to report that Annie has managed to avoid every obstacle that may have been placed in its way; putting on a show that is brimming with optimism, emotion, and, above all, talent.
In fact, whilst Hart dazzled in her role as Miss. Hannigan, it would not be doing her a disservice to say that she was upstaged by the bevy of young girls who have been cast as the show’s orphans – especially Ruby Stokes who took on the title role for this week’s press night.
Brimming with Annie’s trademark confidence, Stokes brings the much-loved redhead to life with an endearing grin and powerful singing voice, however, what really sets her apart from other child actors in the West End at the moment is her unfaltering professionalism.
The young star clearly knows her marks like the back of her hand and is able to prance her way from one end of the stage to the other with all of the natural charisma of a seasoned professional.
Stokes also proved her credentials during her powerful rendition of one of the show’s most famous ballads, ‘Tomorrow’, keeping her cool and refusing to break character, or her musical number, for even a second when Amber, the delightfully gorgeous dog who takes on the role of Sandy, started to enthusiastically lick her on the face and mouth.
Stokes and the rest of the young cast are full of energy throughout the show’s two hour run-time, bursting their way through the hugely popular tracks, such as ‘It’s A Hard Knock Life’, as though it’s their first ever time performing, and with the enthusiasm and passion that can so often be missing from older actors in musical theatre.
Thankfully, although they are slightly overshadowed by Annie and the rest of the orphans, the adult cast are equally charming in their performances, with Hart’s fine-tuned comic timing making her rendition of ‘Little Girls’ one of the most memorable moments of the night.
Although it has been argued that Hart is perhaps too warm ‘n’ fuzzy to do the role of nasty Miss. Hannigan justice, she actually gives a fresh lease of life to the well-worn character.
Hart skillfully avoids making Miss. Hannigan a trademark panto villain and instead hints that perhaps she isn’t all bad, instead, she’s just tired, downtrodden, and has basically given up.
Although different to the Miss. Hannigan that we are so familiar with from the 1982 film, Hart’s performance is just as gripping and she particularly commands the stage during her musical numbers, such as the aforementioned ‘Little Girls’ and ‘Easy Street’, which she performs with Jonny Fines as Rooster and Djalenga Scott, who plays Lily.
All in all, the West End’s newest production of Annie is definitely one to watch, with the show’s charming performances, optimistic show numbers, and talented cast making it the medicine that London so desperately needs right now.