Little Orphan Annie is back in town, trying to escape from the orphanage and the clutches of the awful Miss Hannigan to find happiness with her long-lost family. The ending might not be the exact version of the happily ever after that Annie pictures, but it sure is swell.
Having entertained audiences all over the world on both the stage and the silver screen for the last four decades, Annie’s popularity endures. The crowd went WILD for the opening lines of ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’… and again for ‘Tomorrow’… and once again for ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile’.
The slight audience hysteria was clearly a mystery to the Chinese mother and daughter seated next to us who hadn’t grown up with the cultural phenomenon that is Annie and yet they too seemed to enjoy the show enormously.
Annie’s fan base comprises primarily of girls who are 8-12 years old and women who have turned 8-12 years old at any point in the 40 years since the musical debuted on Broadway and was subsequently immortalised in the 1982 film version starring Aileen Quinn.
Unlike the 2014 Movie reboot which brings Annie firmly into the 21st century, arguably losing much of its original charm, this musical is fairly faithful to the Broadway original (hooray). This particular version is in fact fresh from London’s West End, the only difference being that it showcases an all singing, all dancing South African cast (another hooray) and they do a stellar job. This is a top-drawer production on all counts.
Annie necessitates casting both children and an animal (the two cardinal no-no’s of any kind of theatre or film production), however this show successfully employs both. Annie and the other six orphans are fantastic. Those seven young girls stole the show, with Bonisiwe Nomoyi’s turn as ‘Molly’ being particularly endearing. The marvelously behaved and rather adorable dog undoubtedly has a queue of people wanting to take it home after every single performance.
There are three Annie’s and three teams of orphans performing on different days. We watched team Empire, but teams Madison and Rockerfeller are bound to be equally excellent. Every little girl dreams of playing Annie, but most can’t possibly hold a candle to the current young stars at Montecasino.
Charon Williams Ros’ Miss Hannigan is suitably distasteful and drunk and provides many of the shows’ comic moments. Taryn Suddings’ Grace trills like a sweet nightingale and the rest of the cast keep the pace moving smartly, with flowing choreography and seamless scenery changes.
The backdrop of Depression era New York and Roosevelt’s New Deal is in line with Annie’s origins. The original comic strip of Little Orphan Annie ran from 1924 until 2010, continuing on long after the death of creator Harold Gray in 1968. Although the strip was suitable for children, Gray used the comic as a vehicle for his political views. Yet, even though the backstory will go over most little girls’ heads, it should still resonate with the adults in modern audiences, especially with the current global financial and political uncertainty.
Way ahead of her time, our female protagonist is feisty, funny and eternally optimistic, a great role model for girls everywhere. The cast, crew and entire team present a delightful, colourful and upbeat spectacle. You’ll leave the theatre smiling, humming and tapping your feet. Dear Annie, audiences will love you and your nostalgic razzle-dazzle today, “tomorrow, tomorrow” and probably forever more.
You can bet your bottom dollar that audiences will be flocking to Monte to see this stunning musical.
Annie is showing at Montecasino’s Teatro until 27 November 2016.
The show’s running time is a whopping 2 and a half hours, (including the interval), so it’s not suitable for wriggly under 5s with short attention spans!