Review: Annie by York Stage Musicals summons up the sunshine

There are two casts: this is the one Helen saw, with Coraleigh Hobson-Robinson as Annie
21 May 2014 @ 1.17 pm
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There are two casts: this is the one Helen saw, with Coraleigh Hobson-Robinson as Annie
There are two casts: this is the one Helen saw, with Coraleigh Hobson-Robinson as Annie

Review: York Stage Musicals presents Annie
Venue: Grand Opera House, York, May 20, 2014

There’s a saying in the entertainment industry that you should never work with animals and children. Well last night at the Grand Opera House director Robert Readman did just that and rose to the challenge admirably.

I think, like many of the audience, my memory of Annie is buried so far in the distant past I couldn’t quite recall the story before we sat down. I knew it was about a little red headed orphan, a billionaire and had a lot of songs.

Having seen Robert’s production of Peter Pan last year, and previous York Stage Musicals productions, I was pretty confident we were in for a good night. I wasn’t disappointed.

From the beginning of the show when Molly (Cassie Wells) started the action, and what a star in the making she is, the evening flew by in a mix of awwwws, smiles and laughter. A perfect combination for me.

The opening scene takes place in a rundown orphanage in New York City, several scruffy little girls squeezed into each bed, and the singing kicks off almost straight away.

It’s a really visual start to the show, beautiful singing, great choreography and believable costumes.

I have to wonder how Cassie Wells mum will ever get her hair back to normal again, it was so bedraggled and ratty looking.

There’s a brilliant scene where one of the other girls picks up Molly and uses her and the pillow she’s holding to clean the floor instead of a mop.

Annie has an amazing voice, strong and confident, and when I read the programme I realised it was Coraleigh Hobson-Robinson: she put on such a great performance as Tiger Lily in Peter Pan last year. (Some of the roles have two actors over different evenings and Annie is one of these roles).

Despite a lot of outstanding performances my favourite was Julie-Anne Smith as Miss Hanigan.

As soon as I spotted the hip flask I let out an internal groan, there’s nothing worse than someone pretending to be a drunk, it’s such a hard characterisation to get right.
Not only did she get it right, she excelled at it.

Her thin frame really complemented a variety of costumes – including her underwear at one point. The way she moved about the stage, the facial expressions, and the comedy she brought to the role stood out.

My 11 year old summed it up in two words – ‘well good’. Coming from her that’s high praise indeed

I have to say what an excellent cast it was in general. So many of them had little mannerisms or touches that brought their characters to life.

Be that Rooster’s crow (Joe Wawrzyniak), the butler’s very straight back and proper English speech and walk (Martin Rowley) or Lily St Regis’s burlesque style moves (Verity Carr).

I was delighted to see Nik Briggs again (he played Captain Hook last year in Peter Pan), and despite my reservations about him being too young to play Daddy Warbucks he pulled it off flawlessly.

Judging by the awwwws from the audience, Sandy the dog stole a few hearts.

I sat there waiting for the dog to run amok, and nothing. A lot of tail wagging, but an incredibly well behaved and very cute member of the cast.

The set is cleverly designed to turn on columns, so that in one scene you’re in the dingy orphanage and the next you’re in the billionaire’s office.

The choreography was very well done throughout the show, making full use of the space on the stage, and the dancers abilities.

Annie is a sad story but there’s lots of comedy and a happy ending. And that’s how the evening finished for us, on a happy high.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable performance by a very talented cast. All the way back to the car we could overhear fellow audience members commenting on how much they’d enjoyed the evening as well.

My 11 year old summed it up in two words – “well good”. Coming from her that’s high praise indeed.

It’s a great night out for the family so get yourself down to see the show before it finishes this weekend.