ANNIE, the world's favourite family musical opened last night at Derry's Millennium Forum. The show runs here until Saturday 27th February. Starring Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan, this much loved show returned to Derry with a standing ovation last night. One that was very well deserved and delighted the local fans.
As I arrived at the Millennium Forum last night with my little cousin in tow, I was amazed at how many children were in the vicinity. Everyone was there for one reason only - to see the long anticipated new production of Annie.
From the onset the show was alive with music and song. Set in 1930's New York during the Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan's orphanage. Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie's search....
Lesley Joseph was joined on the Derry stage by Alex Bourne (Oliver Warbucks), Holly Dale Spenser (Grace Farrell), Jonny Fines (Rooster) and Djalenga Scott (Lily), alongside the other cast members. This cast and production brought a whole new light on the tale of Annie. This is Annie like you've never seen it before. This is the Annie of 2016. And it works.
This stunning new production includes the unforgettable songs, Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don't Need Anything But You and Tomorrow. It had the audience singing amongst themselves and it had us mesmorised throughout.
Annie was played last night by Madeleine Haynes. A delightful young girl who really looked at home on the stage. Her singing voice was beautiful and her charm delightful.
One cannot overlook the role of Sandy (Amber) the dog. This little guy was right at home and never put a paw wrong.
Whilst watching Annie last night I began to realise that I'd never really contemplated what the story was really about before. I just took it as a surface tale about the orphan Annie. Having seen this musical a number of times, it wasn't until last night that I really thought hard about it. This is surely down to the cast and the performance they gave.
The song Tomorrow was just another catchy tune to me. Last night changed that perception. It really awakened in me the true meaning. Tomorrow really is a new day. Things can always get better. No matter how far down we have been pushed or thrown, we need to remain optimistic and look forward to the new day.
In finding Mr Warbucks and helping him appreciate the true meaning in life, Annie teaches us that it's not always blood that makes us family - it's being with people who love us and care for us. In last night's production we saw how the optimism of a child can change the world of those who listen to that innocence. Maybe theatre really is escapism, but there's a lesson in every story. I found a few in this last night.
The stage setting for Annie was an appealing jigsaw-puzzle design by Colin Richmond, that all slotted together perfectly. Set changes were quick and professional. Costumes were delightful. The music transported us to another world. Annie brought me on a journey of self-discovery in ways I hadn't anticipated.
I had been dubious about this new production. I needn't have worried. The standing ovation at the end of the night confirmed my take on the show. Thumbs up from this end.
Annie The Musical runs at The Millennium Forum unitl Saturday 27th February and tickets are now available from the Box Office and priced from £19.50. Telephone 071264455 or visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk for bookings.