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Review: Annie the Musical Tour 2023, WMC, Cardiff

Find Annie at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday, 8 July 2023.

The smash-hit production of Annie has FINALLY arrived back in Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre (WMC).

I say finally, as we can’t believe it has been almost four years since this magical musical has graced the stage of the Donald Gordon Theatre.

Arriving direct from London’s West End, Annie returns with the one and only strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood as the ever cruel Miss Hannigan! Booo the character! However, Horwood is as fab-u-lous as you can imagine!

Craig Revel-Horwood (Miss Hannigan) and Company. Photo credit: Paul Coltas

You may be familiar with the story already, especially if you watched the 1982 film, Annie. There have been some reimagined versions in more recent years, but if you have seen the original then the stage production follows it closely. Although, there is a bit of a twist at the end, which we weren’t expecting.

Dubbed a ‘feel good film’ by many, this is a story of ups but also many downs…and for those unfamiliar with the plot, here is a quick reminder…

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery at Miss ‘Aggie’ Hannigan’s orphanage. Her luck soon changes when she’s chosen to spend a fairytale Christmas with famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Meanwhile, spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search for her true family…

Zoe Akinyosade (Annie) and Company. Photo credit: Paul Coltas

The musical opens with a scene in the orphanage and as Annie (played by Zoe Akinyosade for this performance) makes her first appearance, much to the enjoyment of the audience. Despite the peer rivalry and banter between the group of orphans, there is a bond between them which unites them in their feelings towards Miss Hannigan. As soon as she begins with the song “Maybe”, it uplifts the auditorium.

My personal favourite, “Hard Knock Life” quickly follows and is probably one of the best and most known songs associated with the story. It’s one of those songs that gives you chills and you know, Annie the musical has truly arrived.

Craig Revel-Horwood (Miss Hannigan). Photo credit: Paul Coltas

Miss Hannigan’s arrival is somewhat different and a tad amusing as she staggers around on stage having swigged from a bottle of her beloved gin. She doesn’t hang around and immediately begins to boss the children around, telling them to do this and to do that. In return, she expects nothing more than their love and affection for the very little that she does do for them.

Hannigan clearly loves her authoritarian job as head of the orphanage, but sadly hates children, to the detriment of those living there. Later in the production, this becomes more apparent as she loathes the fact that someone else might get their fairytale ending, and will stop at almost nothing to stamp out the joy of others. In fact, she takes things a step further when she becomes her brother Rooster (Paul French) and his new girlfriend Lily (Billie-Kay)’s accomplice.

Rooster was played excellently by Paul French, with his quick wit and smarmy charm. It is made clear from the outset that he loves nothing more than to look for quick wins, cutting corners and walking over anyone (even family) that gets in his way. There are a couple of instances where it is mentioned he can ‘make anything disappear’, perhaps revealing a more sinister side to the character. The audience can only imagine! When the trio, Rooster, Lily and Hannigan get together for ‘Easy Street’, you can see the vile concoction that they make. The song itself is another one of my favourites, it is a bit quirky… and a little cheeky, to the amusement of the audience. Lily flashes her knickers a few times and there is some butt slapping, which I’m not sure is entirely needed, although it does reinforce the stereotypes of the characters.

Zoe Akinyosade (Annie). Photo credit: Paul Coltas

The company is absolutely fantastic and Zoe Akinyosade makes a wonderful Annie with her incredible vocals. The company itself is excellent, they are all incredibly powerful singers with each stealing the limelight with each turn. For us, additional mentions should go to the young stars who played Pepper and Molly, just some of the orphans in the production. The younger cast members are switched out for performances. Sandy, Annie’s dog features a little bit and does well under the spotlight. Both Zoe and Sandy get along and you can see their relationship must go beyond simply feeding him treats.  They are absolutely adorable together!

This is one of those musicals that loves to pull on the heartstrings, just to warn you! Just when you think happiness is around the corner for Annie, there is another twist, before being lifted up again to only fall back down. Will Annie’s dreams of finding a family come true and end on a high?

Harlie Barthram (Annie) and Alex Bourne (Daddy Warbucks). Photo credit: Paul Coltas

Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks (Alex Bourne) doesn’t start out as the kind-hearted character we all remember from the end of the film either. The road to adoption isn’t an easy one and doesn’t get off to the best of starts when she arrives at the bald billionaire’s mansion. However, what starts out as a PR stunt, grows to something more as the relationship between the two flourishes, to where they become inseparable. Without giving too much away, the journey for both Annie and Warbucks is an emotional rollercoaster, and whilst casting his feelings aside for the good of the girl, he makes a promise to help find Annie’s biological parents, if he can.

This is when a plot is formed by Rooster, Lily and Miss Hannigan to coax Warbucks into handing over a $50,000 reward to what Annie believes are in fact her parents. However, not all is what it seems, it never is, is it?  …leaving Annie to wait a little longer before her dreams come true.

The story of Annie is an all time classic and one that all the family can enjoy.

You’ll find yourselves wanting to sing along and humming the tunes to unforgettable songs including,  It’s The Hard-Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow. As they say, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll love it!

Age guidance: 5+ (no under 2s)

Start time:
Mon – Sat 7.30pm
Thu + Sat 2.30pm

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 35 minutes (including 1 interval)

Book as early as you can to secure the best choice of seats. To find out more and to book, visit the WMC website here.