[All images courtesy of bradford-theatres.co.uk]
Annie begins in the orphanage where the children are under the strict regime of lazy lousy drunk Miss Hannigan (in a camp rendition by Craig Revel Horwood). This greedy gold-digger is a callous and cruel tragic wretch of Dickensian proportion. But he is no match for the irrepressible Annie (a revelation in Madeleine Haynes) who turns a Christmas visit to a billionaire to her own advantage with her magnanimous charm.
Haynes is remarkable in the way such a powerful and redolent voice comes from one so young and tiny. While Alex Bourne as the rich-beyond-avarice Daddy Warbucks plays with a real power although rather reserved (deliberately) in terms of emotions. But Annie breaks through this and transports him from a world of loneliness and isolation to one of connection and, most importantly, parental love. Holly Dale Spencer as his secretary Grace Farrell offers a warm soprano to the proceedings and sees through Miss Hannigan’s ruse to get the reward they have offered to Annie’s parents, if found.
Colin Richmond’s set and costumes and Ben Cracknell’s lighting are suitably spectacular but low-key at times too, functional yet fun. Throughout this is joyous escapism with true pathos and emotional depth with the musical interludes carrying the show along apace. Director Nikolai Foster originally worked on this production at West Yorkshire Playhouse and has developed it further with a master’s touch. Alongside the fun and frolics is some quite deep political and social commentary that leaves us with a sense of universal optimism and hope.