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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: ANNIE @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH

🎭 Annie

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR

🗓 Monday 14th August 2023

⭐️⭐️⭐️

SOMETHING WAS MISSING


Last night I visited the Theatre Royal Plymouth to see the much anticipated return of Annie to Plymouth, which is playing in The Lyric auditorium until Saturday. There were some parts of this production that I absolutely loved and other parts that I didn’t feel the same about! This means that this will be a very mixed review and has resulted in a star rating of 3.


The show follows the same basic storyline as the 1982 film of the same name which follows 11 year old orphan Annie as she is taken in by billionaire Oliver Warbucks during the Great Depression in 1930’s USA.


Leading the cast as Annie was Zoe Akinyosade who is a very accomplished actress for someone so young. She was very believable in the role and when her voice broke with emotion towards the end of the performance she had the audience in the palm of her hand. I am not always a fan of children on the stage but felt that Akinyosade competently portrayed her character and received huge audience applause for her renditions of songs such as Maybe and Tomorrow.

The role of the deplorable antagonist Miss Hannigan is being played in Plymouth by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood. Surprisingly I found his performance underwhelming. For me he simply wasn’t nasty enough and I didn’t fully believe his dislike of the children. Things such as stamping on a doll seemed a bit lacklustre unfortunately and I always found myself wanting more from him. His acting was not strong and there seemed to be strange unexplained pauses in the middle of sentences! He also had a very questionable accent and was quite quiet. On the flip side, he had a very strong singing voice, with great projection, and he often out-sung other performers. I have known and loved Horwood as a choreographer and director and I can’t help thinking that this is where he strengths lie within the theatre industry.


I absolutely loved Amelia Adams who was a delight as Grace Farrell and had a beautiful singing voice. Easily my favourite female character, she was likeable from the moment she entered the stage. She had great chemistry with Akinyosade as Annie and also with Alex Bourne as Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks.


Bourne for me gave the standout performance of the night. He was equally commanding and sensitive as Warbucks and had a wonderful depth to his singing voice which was a joy to listen to. His acting ability is second to none and in a production which had a lot of almost panto-esque over acting, Bourne brought an element of realism and delivered a confident performance throughout. He seemed so comfortable in the role and his relationship with the little orphan was utterly believable and heartwarming to witness. I had seen Bourne on stage many years ago and so was looking forward to seeing him perform again, and was not disappointed.

In my opinion Paul French was miscast Rooster. I always feel bad to say things like this but I have to be honest about my feelings when I’m invited to review a show. Although I think he is an exceptional dancer I found his acting and singing well below par. He overacted so much which made me take an instant dislike to him and his scenes alongside Horwood felt really flat and were painstaking to watch. Luckily these scenes were saved by Billie-Kay as Lily who had great characterisation, but I don’t understand the creative choice to have her constantly do a high pitched scream which was really unpleasant to hear and quickly became grating and annoying.


I have to say that the ensemble in this production were phenomenal and some of my favourite moments in the show came from them. Their performances in songs such as Hooverville, N.Y.C and You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile were exceptional and left me wanting to see more from them. Lukin Simmonds had a wonderful singing voice and I enjoyed his performance as Bert Healy and I was also drawn to the energetic performance from Dawn Williams, but the entire ensemble were a sensation.

As I stated earlier I am not usually a fan of children in big productions, but the group of children who appeared in Annie as the orphans, known collectively as Team Rockefeller, were actually rather good! A few tuning issues at times, but these were forgivable as overall they gave a strong performance. They opened the show well and they gave an incredible performance of Hard Knock Life.

An issue with the children was that it was actually difficult to hear them when they were singing as they were drowned out by the orchestra. The levels seemed wrong throughout the performance, but it was more noticeable during the children’s songs. As a technical theatre nerd I find that issues such as this which happen all the way through a show are unforgivable and need to be looked into.


The set and costume design by Colin Richmond were both great as was the lighting design by Ben Cracknell. Cracknell is a name I have come to rely on with lighting and I’m always delighted to see his name attached to a production as I know that in terms of lighting I’m going to witness something great.


Nikolai Foster’s direction worked incredibly well alongside the sublime choreography by Nick Winston. The stage always felt full, even if there were only one or two characters on it.

The book by Thomas Meehan is on the whole very good, although I would have liked to see the relationship development between Annie and Warbucks, rather than just being told about it by Farrell. A minor issue but I feel it would have added a bit more depth to the story.


The final cast member I want to mention is David Burrows. His take on Frankin Roosevelt was really good and the scene between him and his cabinet was one of my overall favourites in the show.

If you are a fan of the movie adaptation then you’re sure to love the stage show and it will be playing at Theatre Royal Plymouth all this week. Head to www.theatreroyal.com to check availability and book tickets.

Neill Kovacic-Clarke

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.


My ticket for this performance of Annie was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the star rating given or the content of my review.

CAST AT THIS PERFORMANCE:

Zoe Akinyosade as Annie; Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan; Alex Bourne as Oliver Warbucks; Amelia Adams as Grace Farrell; Paul French as Rooster; Billie-Kay as Lily, David Burrows as Lt. Ward / Franklin Roosevelt / Jimmy Johnson; Tommy Wade-Smith as Butler / Fred McCracken / Howe; Lukin Simmonds as Bundles / Bert Healy / Ickes / Butler; Alistair Beattie as NBC Producer / Apple Seller / Butler / Hull; Martin McCarthy as Drake; Rosalind James as Sophie / Mrs Pugh / Frances Perkins; Phoebe Roberts as Cecille / Connie Boylan; Dawn Williams as Annette / Star To Be / Bonnie Boylan / Morganthau; Emily Barnett-Salter as Mrs Greer / Ronnie Boylan; Children: Team Rockefeller


RUNNING TIME (approx):

2 hours 25 minutes, including interval

The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions and I have personally seen some excellent productions in these spaces.

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