Annie starring Craig Revel Horwood. Photo by Paul Coltas
Probably best known as a judge on all sixteen series of BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood has returned to one of the best musical theatre baddies audiences love to hate, Miss Hannigan, in one of amateur theatre’s most-produced children’s shows, Annie – which is currently playing at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre.
Miss Hannigan is the familiar role which Revel Horwood received great acclaim not only in the West End but also on the 2015/2016 UK tour. Craig’s return to director Nikolai Foster’s touring production sees him sharing the role of Miss Hannigan with the likes of Jodie Prenger and Leslie Joseph and, as well as Woking this week, will be personally appearing in Dartford, Liverpool, Milton Keynes and Cardiff. Previous co-Hannigans have also included Miranda Hart, Anita Dobson and Meera Syal.
The exclusive aspect of Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan is that, unlike his contemporaries, he is of course a man playing a woman. However, after seeing him twice in this particular role now, this is not to his detriment. In fact the performer steals scene after scene as he plays the tyrant quite genuinely and in an alcohol-induced thick Bronx New York accent. Whether it's because of his fame I don't quite know, but such is the way Revel Horwood plays the head of the orphanage, you can never bring yourself to hate Hannigan quite as much as you would expect.
It’s the era of the great Depression in 1930s America. Feisty Annie is an orphan and, under the care of the aforementioned child-hating Miss Hannigan, attempts to run away at every opportunity. That is until Grace Farrell (Carolyn Maitland), Private Secretary to billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, walks into the orphanage asking to look after one of the girls over the Christmas holidays. Once Annie is chosen ‘Daddy’ Warbucks becomes smitten with her and makes plans to adopt the child. However, back at the orphanage, Hannigan, her brother, Rooster, and his girlfriend, Lily, make their own plans to scam Warbucks using the girl’s long-lost parents to wind him in.
The story and the show are quite famous, especially with female-heavy theatre schools, who produce it often. But, with numbers such as: Tomorrow, Hard Knock Life, Maybe, Little Girls and Easy Street, Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charin’s merits speak for themselves. Plus, this current production from Michael Harrison and David Ian is one which should serve as a shining example for youth groups and schools to follow.
Revel Horwood and Alex Bourne (Warbucks) may top the bill, but it’s Annie (Freya Yates at the press performance) and her fellow orphans – not forgetting Sandy the dog – who own this show, and rightly so. There are three groups of children who rotate their performances throughout the tour and it’s a joy to watch them scream, shout, dance and sing; filthy, noisy and full of energy. No wonder Miss Hannigan has been driven to the bottle.
Woking’s New Victoria Theatre was packed on press night and so you may have to fight for a ticket, but it’s worth it.
For more info & tour dates visit: www.anniethemusicaltour.uk
Photo by Paul Coltas