Last night Keith and I went to the New Theatre in Hull to see an amateur production of Annie - mainly because our 10 year old grand-daughter, Matheea, was playing one of the orphans. Bearing in mind the fact that Annie is one of our least favourite musicals, we were pleasantly surprised at how much we did enjoy the performances.
We were particularly impressed with all the children, who put so much effort into their parts when they were on stage and really held your attention. One young girl was outstandingly good. 10 year old Mia Stocks played the part of Annie with such an engaging style I almost forgot I was listening to one of the songs I cannot bear to listen to when she sang "Tomorrow". Her singing was superb, she had very good stage-craft skills, her American accent was better than some of the adults in that it was faultless, and I could understand what she was saying. She also had range, which is unusual in one so young - her emotional scenes were just as credible as her joyous ones. I look forward to seeing her perform again. Her smile was infectious.
To be brutally honest (which I am, often) I did not like the choreography much - the adults in the chorus were not all putting in as much effort as they could have, which detracted from the ones that were, and overall spoiled the effect.
Miss Hannigan's character was suitably evil and the audience seemed to enjoy the portrayal given by Jackie Cox.
Several members of Hull Musical Society, of which I am a member, were also in the show last night, and I was impressed with the performance from Jane Bradley as Lily St Regis - the woman who pretends to claim Annie as her own daughter in order to get the reward money, along with Daniel (Rooster) Hannigan. Jane is very good at playing ditsy characters with great aplomb, and last night was no exception. Equally impressive were Ian Start as President F D Roosevelt, Russell Fallon as both the Policeman and a member of Rossevelt's Cabinet, along with the other cabinet members Steve Aylmer and Peter Martin.
There were a few occasions when the action did not flow as smoothly as I would have expected, and I got the impression that it was under-rehearsed with the adult section - certainly, compared to their production of South Pacific last year, there was a marked difference in the whole production.
The scenery was excellent, courtesy of Scenic Projects Ltd, and really helped to create the atmosphere. All the costumes were well done - I would never have guessed that the orphans all did their own costumes, they certainly co-ordinated well. Costume changes were slick wherever required, scene changes were all well done and the musical accompaniment was just right.
The dog, Pepper on the night we went (called Sandy in the show) was adorable.
One or two members of the chorus really stood out for me - Debbie Lee who was one of the Boylan sisters singing on the Bert Healey show and I found myself drawn to watching her as she was so animated and obviously enjoying the whole show. In the Children's Chorus, apart from the obvious and biased opinion that our grand-daughter Matheea Ellerby shone, I believe the girl playing the part of Molly (Millie Morris) really did stand out.
I don't think I will ever love the show itself, as the music tends to grate on me rather than grow on me, but due to the casting of Mia Stocks as Annie, this production certainly helped to "lessen my dislike" shall we say!
Matheea was going to watch the show this afternoon, and it will be the final performance for her and the rest of the cast this evening. After that, Matheea will be performing with the Junior Section at Bilton in the summer, in a production of The Emperor's New Clothes.