Review: Annie at Manchester Opera House starring Anita Dobson

Annie at Manchester Opera House
Annie at Manchester Opera House

Annie is a memorable track on the the long-playing record of my childhood.

My little sister and I spent hours watching, dreaming and singing along to the film version, comparing our own hard-knock life to the red-haired orphan who was adopted by a billionaire.

Annie at Manchester Opera House

Annie at Manchester Opera House

We were word perfect and we never got bored – and when I mean never – which is why we have now seen the staged version multiple times, from amateur to professional productions and yet still dream of sporting a red and white Annie outfit.

There’s still time. Maybe.

Of course are trendier musicals out there these days with whizz-bangs and smarter-mouthed characters but Annie never loses its magic.

So it was fully dressed with a smile we arrived at the latest production to grace the Manchester Opera House stage – our expectations were high.

Annie at Manchester Opera House

Annie at Manchester Opera House

With a high profile cast starring no less than Anita Dobson as Miss Hannigan and with Annie played by a veteran pre-teen in Taziva-Faye Katsande (she’s starred in Matilda in the West End already and is one of three youngsters playing the role) it was clear we were in for a treat.

This is one of the strongest casts I have seen for a while which is amusing as they are largely aged under 12 – although the adult cast members were also impeccable.

One of Annie’s strengths is its showcasing of young talent and they don’t take it easy in these young actresses.

This is complicated, high-energy choreography and real acting (including American accents) is required.

Annie in particular also requires dog management skills of the highest order.

Sandy, played by Amber the adorable Labradoodle, makes multiple appearance and Taziva-Faye carried snacks through her choreography which were deftly applied to keep scene-stealing Sandy in check.

Every time the dog appeared there was an audible ‘ooh’ from the audience.

It’s easy to forget with all this adorableness that Annie is actual a nuanced commentary on a difficult time in America’s political history in which many really did hope the sun would come out tomorrow - as well as a celebration of song and dance.

This production takes in the highs and the lows with aplomb, taking the audience on an emotional journey with its famously saccharine ending via a ridiculously talented cast who don’t hit a wrong note.

This includes Anita with her hilarious Miss Hannigan who gets her come-uppance for the treatment of her little girls and Alex Bourne’s likeable ‘Daddy Warbucks’ – but let’s leave the last high five to Annie’s six orphan friends who are fascinating to watch and knee-high to a grasshopper.

I may well be back Tomorrow.

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