Television celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood stunned Birmingham theatre goers as Miss Hannigan in a riveting new version of Annie.

The family-favourite live comedy-musical is now playing to packed-out audiences at The Alexandra Theatre

Craig Revel Horwood’s rich and detailed performance as Miss Hannigan in this exciting stage version makes the audience momentarily forget the incredible performances by Carol Burnett and Cameron Diaz in the movies.

Annie originally premiered on Broadway in 1977 and was later adapted into a film in 1982 which was helmed by legendary director John Huston and starred Albert Finney, Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry.

The musical continues to inspire filmmakers and an updated version was brought to life in Hollywood in 2014 which starred Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.

A little orphan girl dares to dream and fight for her happiness during dark times Paul Coltas
A little orphan girl dares to dream and fight for her happiness during dark times

The original stage show sets the story during The Great Depression and deals with themes such as poverty, homelessness and the cost of living crisis which will strike a poignant chord with a contemporary audience.

The story opens at a seedy and decrepit orphanage run by a seemingly cold-hearted and stern woman called Miss Hannigan. She rules with an iron fist and if any of the girls under her charge dare to step out of line the punishments are dire and cruel.

One little orphan dares to break out of the daily Dickensian routine of soul-breaking work and cruelty and make make her dreams come true.

Annie’s emotional journey, and her joyfully positive outlook despite her desperately sad circumstances, inspires her friends – and those who come into her life – towards a more optimistic way forward during testing times.

The heartbreaking themes of the show resonate with a modern audiencePaul Coltas
The heartbreaking themes of the show resonate with a modern audience

The story of the adventures of Annie will be known to fans and those coming to see the show will be looking forward to see how the cast and crew of this new production have brought to life the beloved characters of the show.

The dazzling star of this production is Craig Revel Horwood who takes to the role of Miss Hannigan like a duck to water. He savours every inch of the diabolical and funny role and embraces the idiosyncrasies of the character with real zest.

Make no mistake, Horwood is no pantomime dame, he invests real time and effort into producing a thrilling three-dimensional character who makes the audience feel Miss Hannigan’s inner turmoil.

Audiences expecting to see Horwood dance will be delighted by the sheer energy he applies to each routine. He knows exactly what to do to get the audience rooting for Miss Hannigan by the climax of the show.

Horwood’s vocals in the song numbers is another special highlight which had the people clapping and singing along.

Craig Revel Horwood shows the complex character of Miss Hannigan in daring waysPaul Coltas
Craig Revel Horwood shows the complex character of Miss Hannigan in daring ways

Craig Revel Horwood is a sensational tour de force whose performance is likely to be nominated when the awards season comes around.

This production of Annie shares a number of talented young performers in the title role. For press night the role was taken by the charming and graceful Zoe Akinyosade whose vocal delivery was emotional and spinetingling.

The large cast of performers playing the various orphans were magical in the way they worked together in powerfully executed ensemble song and dance routines.

All of the catchy songs are here – Tomorrow, It’s the Hard Knock Life, Little Girls. The young cast performs each song in memorable and heartfelt renditions.

There was a rather poignant moment at the thunderous climax when Horwood requested a moment of silence and dedicated the performance – and all forthcoming performances – to the memory of the late Paul O’Grady who was due to take the role of Miss Hannigan when the show toured to other cities such as Liverpool and Dublin.

Annie is a lyrical and uplifting show which revels in the power of love and dreams during dark and difficult times.

VERDICT★ ★★★☆


Annie is now playing at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until Saturday 15 April

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