Annie is a musical based on the strip cartoon 'Little Orphan Annie' which dates back to 1924, published in the New York News. It was almost immediately picked up by the Chicago Tribune and made into a musical for audiences to enjoy nearly 100 years later.

Annabel Connell-Welsh

Annabel Connell-Welsh

Directed by Elsie Kelly, the production tells the tale of particularly optimistic orphan called Annie who escapes from her orphanage and from the clutches of her superior Miss Hannigan (Pat Davies)- a drunk and despiser of children.

Annie is invited to spend Christmas with billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Stuart Raphel) who falls for her charm and eventually wants to adopt her. She asks one thing of him; that he helps her to find her real parents, so he involves the FBI and promises a reward of $50,000 to her biological parents if they come forward.

Miss Hannigan hatches a plan with her brother and his girlfriend to pose as her parents, get the money and split it between them, leaving Annie still without her real guardians. However, things don't go exactly to plan.

Judging by the audience, Annie is very popular with a younger crowd- perhaps because half the cast are young girls- there is some resonance there. The orphan friends of Annie are a wonderful inspiration to a young girls. I assume their balancing act with school and preparing for a production as big as this, that they have to be dedicated and passionate well before their years. It is just wonderful to see children applying themselves to something so challenging yet rewarding.

The opening act has the two best known songs from the musical 'Tomorrow' and 'It's a hard knock life'. Both of these title tracks were performed enthusiastically by Annabel Connell-Welsh (Annie) and the cast of young girls who play her fellow orphans, who were both comical, full of energy and provided a strong opening to the show. 

The orchestra, headed by Tricia Gaskell did a superb job considering that they were few in numbers but provided a great backdrop for the actors and carried the musical seamlessly through each scene.

Annie would not be complete without the very important presence of Sandy (Fizz), a stray dog she finds while she wanders around New York in a desperate search of her parents. A memorable addition to the cast and very well trained- I am in no doubt of how difficult it must be to interact with a live animal on stage and the scenes with Annie and Sandy went swimmingly.

For fans of Anne of Green Gables, this is another story of a vocal, red headed orphan who steals the hearts of her community. A great role model for young women everywhere.

As the musical is set in the run up to Christmas, this is a wonderfully festive story with a happy ending that provides audiences with a gateway to the extravagant month that lies ahead. If you weren't feeling festive before- you will after watching this.

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