Annie - Milton Keynes Theatre - ATG Tickets (atgtickets.com)
A packed theatre last night just shows how popular this musical continues to be and it was heartening to see how very many young children were in the audience. Telling the story of little orphan Annie who, at 11 years old, believes her parents are somewhere ‘out there’ and trying to find her, this production has a very impressive cast of orphans, the highest production values, some excellent adult performers and let’s not forget Sandy (Amber the labradoodle)!  
Annie lives in a home run by Miss Hannigan (Craig Revel-Horwood) in a seemingly desperate situation but ever optimistic of some sort of escape. Freya Yates played Annie on opening night with great assurance and charm. She has a great voice for one so young. Revel-Horwood was more pantomime than tyrannous and more intimidating in his role as Strictly judge than as Miss Hannigan. He is great of voice and dance but plays the role in a very relaxed way and for gentle and obvious laughs rather than anything deeper or three-dimensional; this is his last week in the role.  
Annie's lifer changes when she is chosen to spend a couple of weeks over Christmas at the home of billionaire businessman, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, played charmingly and with ease and authenticity by Alex Bourne. Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ kind and graceful secretary, is elegantly played by Carolyn Maitland. On stage they are a great match. 
This touring production is pretty much true to the original production, which means it felt slightly ‘ploddy’ in some areas, even with Colin Richmond’s really bright and interesting sets and the fabulous costume design. Plenty of well-known musical numbers here, It’s a Hard Knock Life performed by the orphans with gusto, the inimitable Tomorrow of course, and You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile were standout numbers.  
Richard Meek and Jenny Gayner are great as the conniving Rooster and Lily and they definitely bring some ‘oomph’ to the end of the first half which seemed to suffer from an energy dip as the interval approached. Their performance of Easy Street (with Revel-Horwood) is sharp and funny.  
The key to the success of this ensemble production is the relationships between the performers and in particular the energy and charisma of the youngest ones. There are three teams of performers for the orphans.  On opening night it was 'Team Rockefeller' - Honey-Rose Quinn (Molley), Tilly Stephany (Duffy), Francesca Robinson (Tessie), Aliya Bashir (Pepper), Chancé Quaye (July) and Tori Ryan (Kate); all utterly marvellous. As one little girl said to me at the interval ‘They are so talented’, and yes, they really are.  
Musical Director and pianist Daniel Griffin is a dynamic lead and his orchestra were top notch. Annie is a family classic and received a good reception at MK on Monday. Much more could be done to update it to feel more relevant to the world today but clearly the producers and directors have gone for a traditional take on the story.  
Plays MK theatre until July 6th. 2 hours 5 minutes incl. interval
0844 871 7615
https://www.atgtickets.com/times/annie/milton-keynes-theatre
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